Art Therapy in Private Practice: Editing a Book as Research

Art Therapy Private PracticeThis blog is based on a speech delivered by author James D. West at the launch of the book Art Therapy in Private Practice on the 7th October 2017 at London Art Therapy Centre.

I have learnt a lot through the researching process of editing this book but the most important thing I have learnt has been to understand the centrality of storytelling in our practices. Telling the story, and trying to get it right!

In exploring the question ‘What Art Therapy in Private Practice is?’ we have told stories and spoken of the larger narratives that inform our work to reveal some of the peculiarities and virtues of our world.

As I was looking back at my emails I was surprised to discover this project began four years ago in late 2013 when Gary Nash and I formed the initial proposal for the book with some of the authors here, but at the old site of London Art Therapy Centre in Archway.  It was two years later that we found a publisher and began to write in earnest. We had regular authors’ meetings and developed the Mind Map to help us to focus on the broad themes that we discovered to be the central concerns of our practices.

This ongoing dialogue helped us to set each chapter in the broader context of these concerns more consistently. The book became a collaborative research document as the authors drew out the central themes that formed and reformed the Mind Map which, like a sort of conceptual squid, kept moving around its tentacles.

art therapy private practice

The Mind Map

The book also reflects the work of the British Association of Art Therapist’s Private Practice Special Interest Group (BAAT PPSIG), set up by Gary Nash and Amanda Wright in 2008 and which I currently coordinate. It continues to offer a network for art therapy private practitioners across the UK.

BAAT Council’s support and sponsorship of the Special Interest Group (SIG) is represented in the book. The BAAT ‘Core Skills and Practice Standards in Private Work’ appears in the Appendices and BAAT also provided background support, making available the research officer to answer some of our pressing research questions, and also in offering us anonymised peer review through the Dual Experience Group.

In the Appendices you can also see a copy of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy Practice Research Network’s (UKCP PRN) ‘Moments of Meeting’ questionnaire as evidence of broader professional alliances.

In the book we also reflected on the learning that had occurred in the SIG meetings held in Sheffield, Manchester, and Wales over the last six years.

What gradually became very clear is that different practices in different contexts evolve different ways of knowing. In the book I have called this contextual epistemology.  We certainly didn’t always agree in the author’s group and I now see these tensions as a vital signs of the activity of real learning.  The overarching process however showed how a group of professionals, and their clients, can usefully work together to create representative stories from sometimes very different contexts, revealing both their shared and divergent ideas, yet slowly building a rich and lively picture of what we do.

Within art therapy in the UK there has been considerable suspicion about the standards and objectives of art therapy in private practice. We aimed to address these issues directly.  Consequently I believe we have gone a considerable way to create a fuller, and fairer, picture of our practice in this area.

Returning once more to stories… Now that we have begun to represent where we are and how we got here, we can look forward and ask ‘What will become of art therapy in private practice?’ and you will see from the book that we have better reasons, than we initially thought, to be optimistic.

I am now busily trying to ease the passage of the book to its readers and this has become the next exciting episode!  My hope is that all the sincere and heartfelt work that has gone into these chapters will shine through and be recognised, appreciated, enjoyed and used by its readers, providing a fresh and inspiring perspective at this crucial and testing time.

James D. West 3.10.17


James D. West is an art therapist in private practice. He is a peer reviewer for the International Journal of Art Therapy and coordinator of the BAAT Private Practice Special Interest Group.

Geoff Mead on loss, the grieving process and Gone in the Morning

Geoff MeadGeoff Mead took some time to reflect on the grieving process and some of the themes of his new book

Watch the full 28 minute interview below, or alternatively watch a series of short clips from the interview in the playlist below that.

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Sign up to receive our new Art Therapy Catalogue

catalogueSign up to our mailing list to receive a free copy of our latest Art Therapy Catalogue of new and bestselling titles 2017.

To request a free print copy of the JKP complete catalogue of books on Art Therapy, sign up to our mailing list below. Be sure to click any additional areas of interest so we can notify you about exciting new titles you might like.

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Creative extensions of the safe place exercise

creativeKaren Treisman, author of A Therapeutic Treasure Box for Working with Children and Adolescents with Developmental Trauma: Creative Techniques and Activities, is a specialist clinical psychologist, trainer, and author. She is also the Director of Safe Hands and Thinking Minds Training and Consultancy services. In this blog post, she explores the different ways a therapist can create a safe place for children.

One of the common tools in a therapist’s tool box is the imaginary safe place exercise. This can be a great way to support children, adolescents, parents, and ourselves to have an emotional safe haven and an inner place of safety.

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Book launch: Portrait Therapy by Susan M. D. Carr

Portrait Therapy

After all the long hours sat at the computer writing this book, it is wonderful to be preparing for the book launch of Portrait Therapy on Thursday 28th September!
I will be taking along some of the portraits that feature in the book, so if you missed my “Paint me this way!” exhibition at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, this will be a chance to see some of them. There will be signed books to purchase, free drinks and nibbles, and there is free parking too! Stanton Park (SN6 7SF) is one of Swindon’s best kept secrets, a beautiful place to visit, so arrive early for a walk around the park and lake before the event! I look forward to welcoming you.
To find out more about portrait therapy check out my website:

Portrait Therapy

To find out more about Susan’s book, Portrait Therapy, click here.

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The Use of Play in Therapy

playDr Fiona Zandt has written the below article on the importance of play in therapy. Dr Fiona Zandt and Dr Suzanne Barrett, authors of Creative Ways to Help Children Manage BIG Feelings, are clinical psychologists who currently work in successful private practices in Melbourne. They each have over 15 years’ experience working with children and families. 

Connecting families with wool – Why play is so important when working therapeutically with children

A therapist recently described using an activity from our book that involves using wool to connect family members to make visible the ways in which their feelings and actions impact upon each other. Following the session the child who was being brought to therapy articulated some of what she had learnt to her Mum. She said that she now knew that if she died, everyone would be really sad, and that not everything was her fault. Her comments reflected some key messages that the therapist wanted to convey – namely that she was part of a family who cared about her and were all being affected by the difficulties they were experiencing. Blame was removed and the responsibility for change was shared, laying the foundation for the therapist to work effectively with both the parents and the child.

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Top 5 tips for getting your business started

by Vicky Abad, co-editor of The Economics of Therapy, edited by Daniel Thomas and Vicky Abad, Apr 2017, £22.99, ISBN: 9781849056281


Many people remind me how lucky I am to run my own business. I love what I do, it is my passion and I feel very lucky indeed to make my living doing what I am passionate about and doing what I love – making music with children.

Starting a business doing something you are passionate about is a privilege and an honour, and it is also hard work. Nobody pays you to go to work except you – so you have to really believe in what you do, have faith in your ability to do it and your ability to sell it to others. You have to build something that people want to buy and this takes time and planning.

It is sometimes easy to daydream about what your business would look like but then get lost or overwhelmed in the actual reality of trying to set one up. Continue reading

The musical nature of human communication

musical-nature-human-communicationRhythm of Relating

by Stuart Daniel

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (it was the nineties in Edinburgh) I enjoyed getting painted red and drumming like wild-fire with a group of people dedicated to festival and having serious amounts of fun. The festival nights we drummed were a culmination of many hours spent in connection through shared rhythm. There’s a collective space we would enter, a space known to any rhythm musician, where time goes strange, the group hums with a new electricity and unity glows.”


Sometime last year, as a play therapist, I was working with an eleven year-old boy. We had been hanging out for four sessions. The boy had a lot to be angry about and, up until this point our connection had been defined by me (almost as a by-stander) attempting to help him feel safe and contained as he expressed this angry momentum. I remember feeling disconnected. Not obviously, but somewhere in a quiet place inside where the chance for melancholic sadness has a chance to grow. In this particular session, session five, the boy had given our punch-bag a name and was beating it with hands and then foam swords. I stuck with him, joining in, empathising with body, gesture, a few words. After a while the energy of his angry impetus faded a little and he more casually struck with the swords. I had some insider information here! I knew the boy was learning, and loved, to drum. I started playing an off-beat to his strikes, and then switched things around a little. He matched perfectly and, after a few iterations, developed too. We played in-sync like this for a while until the energy of the room changed colour. The boy became quiet, lay down on the fallen punch-bag, and moved on to a series of mother-baby play scenes of a fresh, gentle, powerful quality completely different from before. I remember being delighted, moved, and consciously thinking, “has he been reading our book?”.  Continue reading

How can music therapy help children with special needs? Read an extract from Rhythms of Relating in Children’s Therapies

music-therapy-children-special-needsHow can rhythm and musicality help therapists be in sync with children with special needs who find communication and depth challenging?

What is rhythm for these children? And for their therapists?

In this extract from Rhythms of Relating in Children’s TherapiesFrom Cocoon to Butterfly: Music Therapy with an adopted girl, Dr Cochavit Elefant takes us into her two and a half years journey of music therapy with little Noa, showing us how through musical and verbal interplay they could go from distance to closeness and from chaos to self-control.

Click here to read the extract

“Noa was two and a half years old when I first met her: a beautiful, lively girl with long dark hair and wide open brown eyes. She was brought to music therapy by her adopted mother with the complaint that Noa was hitting, biting and pushing children at her nursery school.” continue reading

In Rhythms of Relating in Children’s Therapies, Stuart Daniel and Colwyn Trevarthen invite each contributor to have fun exploring their own interpretation of this title and to share their particular ways to phase in-sync with vulnerable children and create rhythms of connection.

If you would like to read more articles like this, hear the latest news and offers on our Arts Therapies books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

The others in music therapy practice

A well-trodden territory in need of a map by John Strange

music therapy practiceYou can learn about music therapy from books, journals, magazine or newspaper articles, TV or radio programmes, websites or blogs. These sources offer plenty of information, both practical and theoretical, about music therapy clients – their problems, what happens in music therapy and how it helps – and about the music therapist herself – what she does and why. There seems to be much less written and said about various others who may also be in the therapy room, despite the fact that their contribution is often crucial to the effectiveness of the therapy. It was this imbalance in the available information about what actually goes on in music therapy which I and my co-editors Professor Helen Odell-Miller and Eleanor Richards set out to correct in our newly published compilation, Collaboration and Assistance in Music Therapy Practice: Roles, Relationships, Challenges.

Although many music therapy approaches draw on theories and practices from the field of psychodynamic therapy, it is relatively uncommon to find in music therapy the classic psychoanalytic model of therapist and patient sharing an exclusive private space. The therapy space must be safely contained by therapeutic ‘boundaries’, but the exclusion of others is seldom either practical or desirable. Nurses, care workers, escorts, teaching assistants, family members may for varying reasons need to be present, and their presence creates not only challenges but opportunities which the therapist would be foolish to ignore. Continue reading