What are the qualities that make one a good art therapist? Does one have to be a skilled artist to be a good art therapist? I was asked this question recently and I think it is an important one.
In previous posts I have discussed the important differences between creativity and artistic skill. I would posit that it is necessary for one to have a passion and affinity for the arts, including some intensive training in technique, in order to be an art therapist. What is required is a facility with the arts, a knowledge of art history, a thorough understanding of the creative possibilities and an ability to guide a client through the creative process. Is this you? Are you thoroughly grounded in the arts-the making of it, the history of it, the care-taking of the creative process? Imagine a music therapist who knew the words to all the songs but couldn’t play an instrument. Are they still a music therapist? Can you lead if you can’t play the tune? We have to be able to play the artistic and creative tune.
You may have already read my thoughts about being able to draw. Drawing skill alone does not equal artistry in my book. I cannot draw realistically, does this diminish my ability as an art therapist? No, of course not. Drawing realistically is a particular skill subset, my strength lies in my overall creative sensibility. And so does yours.
I definitely think you have to self-identify as an artist in order to be an art therapist. How else can you truly support others on their creative journey unless you are on one yourself? I like music, but that doesn’t make me a music therapist. I embrace art, I practice art making, I am trained as an artist. My identity as an artist is truly the underpinning of my identity as an art therapist.