Why Should We Fund Art Therapy?

There’s simply not enough funding put into certain areas of the mental health services in this country. This needs to change.

Therapy is often a last ditch attempt to regain mental stability when there is nowhere else to turn to. There’s a taboo that comes along with the thought of someone, ‘resorting’ to psychotherapy, because there’s usually nowhere else to turn and there’s no-one to turn to. This shouldn’t be the case. No one should be afraid to express their problems or feelings, it is a basic human requirement.

When it comes to making sure that people’s problems are observed in a respectful manner, in individual cases, there has to be a wide array of therapists on hand and on call to help anyone who requires the psychiatric treatment they deserve. In the United Kingdom, there are a fair few therapists ready and willing to help.

There is a selection of different forms of therapy, ranging from Cognitive Behavioural Therapists (CBT) to Psychoanalytical Therapists. All of which require certain levels of funding in order to continue their hard work and aid those in need. One specific form of therapy that has had problems with funding recently is Art Therapy.

Art Therapy is a form of therapy that uses art as a medium in order for someone to express themselves. With this, people who come to art therapy sessions often do so in either groups where they meet people in similar situations, or alone in an individual session, depending on what someone wants and needs. It helps people to understand themselves better and is often a way of getting those who need help, to get their thoughts off their chest and onto the canvas.

The big problem that the world of art therapy is facing is a lack of funding in its field. There are many art therapists that work on low incomes or as a part time job. After speaking to a range of different people in the field, each with their own story to tell, from full time art therapists to people who have used art therapy in the past; they all had the same message- art therapy matters.

Mary Rose Brady from the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), said that anyone who had ever thought about doing art therapy at any point should ‘at least try out a taster session and see what you think and meet art therapists to discuss what you might be looking for and the treatment provided’. She explained how more funding needs to be pumped into the practice in order for it to thrive and help those who are most vulnerable.

Mary revealed that most funding comes from outside sources such as grant givers, donors, trusts, charities and philanthropists who will gladly donate to the cause, but it’s not enough. She said that ‘the cost of helping a child using art therapy, among other forms, can cost up to £206,000 each to look after’. The high costs of helping the most vulnerable people in our society are worrying making it a huge priority, now more than ever.

Although Mary did talk of the need for greater funding, she was very positive of the advances being made recently. She said that ‘our public profile is growing and more people are becoming members (of the BAAT), and the government is said to be investing £1.25 billion into young people’s mental health’. This means that the government is starting to pay attention to the need for better mental health services and beginning to take funding for therapies more seriously. If you had a child, would you not want them to have the option to see anyone as early as possible, and get the best treatment they can possibly receive? Then the idea of putting money into therapies should be one of your top considerations.

Talking to art therapist Sarah Greaves who works primarily with adults, said of the importance of art therapy- ‘In my experience it is a very effective way of helping people… as using art provides a way to access unconscious thoughts and feelings, and the visual metaphors to describe their experience and to examine this in the safety of the therapeutic relationship.’ This kind of therapy can help people who may not want to ‘talk it out’. People need other ways of expressing themselves in order to fully explore their problems, no one is the same when it comes to mental health treatment.

As someone who has worked thoroughly alongside these people, Sarah understands that a boost in funding is required in order to produce the best results and see the greatest way to aid people. She added that spending on therapies ‘should be evidence based, and that whatever is done needs to be done well and ethically, not just because it is seen as being cheap’, raising a good point about the way funding is scattered among the mental health services. There should be a review of the placement of money for mental health practices without cutting corners simply to be cost effective. The government should not attempt to avoid one of the most important and talked about problems of everyday life.

All the art therapists have agreed in these interviews that what they do is incredibly fulfilling for them; to see people’s lives improving before them and the more they practice it themselves, gives them as art therapists a massive amount of self-worth and enjoyment, and even helps them understand the human mind better too.

So why should people care more about art therapy than other types of therapy? The reason why you should care about art therapy is because it has a fantastic track record, shown that it is incredibly effective for those who’ve used the services and produced great results from a range of ages, from the youngest of children to even the oldest in our society. Art therapy as a whole is very lucky to have the sort of money behind it that it does to keep it alive, even if it isn’t the best way of staying afloat.

Manda Thompson is a university lecturer in art therapy from the University of Chester who also works outside the university with vulnerable children as an art therapist. She talked about how she teaches her students at the University, and what makes art therapy so relevant, and also reiterating the importance of greater funding, especially in regards to the younger generation. She said that ‘having a non-verbal therapy is essential. Art therapy has proved over and over again how beneficial it can be for young people’s services’, showing that for children, this kind of therapy is a perfect way of helping with any sort of problems they may be having, as art is such a massive part of human nature that from a young age we use this as a way of communicating our feelings when words may not be the best way to get people to understand the way they process thoughts and emotions, particularly if there are other mental illnesses involved. These can even become apparent through practicing art therapy from an early age.

Manda went on to say that ‘services like CAMHS should ensure they’ve got at least one art therapist on their service because it is pertinent with young children’. Big name services that work with young people need to have art therapists that work in tandem with them, and in order to do so, they require more funding than ever before.

‘Having A Non-Verbal Therapy Is Essential’

One person who has used art therapy in the past is a man named Jules Guaitamacchi, a freelance lecturer and a videographer. He recalls his time doing art therapy: ‘I remember creating a collage of how I saw my addiction and my recovery. It was a great insight into myself. I recall enjoying it and feeling pride in presenting it in front of my group’. He goes on to talk about his recovery using art therapy alongside other forms of creative therapies and how useful it has been to him. ‘I think there should be more funding for more therapy in general. I believe if we invested in proper therapists that offered effective methods of treatment that we could help the mental health situation in this country.’ Jules had been in therapy since he was 15 and carried on for many years before finishing treatment and found it very useful. People like Jules are living proof that art therapy, as well as other forms of therapy, work and give people another chance where they may not have had one, had these service not been readily available. If these services disappeared, it could mean the difference between someone being healthy or not. It could even mean the difference between life or death.

The regular people that may need art therapy should be able to receive what they require to help them and that’s why more attention needs to be paid to this side of mental health treatment. This is why there should be more funding for art therapy, and other creative therapies so that, no matter what, people can receive the best care they can and maintain the best mental health possible. To do so, changes have to be made, so we be proud of the mental health services in the U.K.



2 thoughts on “Why Should We Fund Art Therapy?

  1. It would help if the Australian government funded more Masters Course in Art therapy
    There are only FOUR universities in the whole of australia to offer this postgraduate degree!
    qld-1, Nsw-1, Vic 2
    art therapy is in demand yet one cannot be recognised as an art therapist until they complete the post graduate degree.
    Come on Australia- pick up your game and raise our education and mental health system to the top of the world field –
    Not at the bottom.


  2. Getting certified in this field is a pain as well! As a human service major, who returned to university at 50, I’ve discovered occupational therapy is a means of practicing without a drawn out addition in certification. I also have an AS in Fine Art from when I was 23–as well as being helped BY art therapy. Some feelings are pre-verbal, or too painful to address verbally!


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