Health Service Focus

01.04.15

W.h.a.t ? Campaign highlights how statutory regulation of arts therapists protects service users

Source: NHE March/ April 15

In the first of a two-part series, Rebekah Tailor from the Health and Care Professions Council introduces a new campaign designed to promote the statutory regulation of arts therapists amongst employers.

This spring the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is launching a new campaign to promote the statutory regulation of arts therapists amongst employers. The ‘Why Hire an Arts Therapist?’ (WHAT?) campaign will publicise the fact that arts therapists are a regulated profession, raising awareness of the legally protected titles of art therapist, art psychotherapist, dramatherapist and music therapist. Anyone using one of these titles is required to meet HCPC standards for their training, professional skills, behaviour and health.

As an independent regulator of 16 health and care professions, the HCPC is committed to working in partnership with a range of organisations, including professional bodies. The WHAT? campaign has been developed in collaboration with the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), the British Association for Dramatherapists (BADth) and the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT).

There are currently 3,602 arts therapists on the HCPC Register, with a significant proportion employed by the NHS on a full-time, part-time or freelance basis. So what is an arts therapist, and what does their regulation mean for service users?

An introduction to arts therapists

An arts therapist is a psychological therapist who has arts-based experience plus training in psychological interventions using drama, music or art as their primary mode of communication.

Donald Wetherick, chair of BAMT Trustees, explained: “Psychological interventions aim to improve a person’s state of mind and wellbeing; for example, to reduce symptoms such as anxiety, confusion, pain and depression. An arts therapist does this by helping the individual to experience themselves and others in different ways through an arts-based activity with therapeutic support.”

Arts therapists work with service users of all ages facing a range of issues, disabilities or diagnoses. This can include emotional or mental health problems, ranging from depression and psychosis to issues of identity and recovery from addiction or abuse; learning or physical disabilities; developmental disorders; physical illness; brain injury or neurological conditions, such as a stroke or dementia. 

Why use an arts therapist? 

  1. They have to meet national standards

Arts therapists are statutory regulated and are fully accountable to the HCPC, whose primary remit is public protection. Their right to practice is linked to continuing registration and compliance with HCPC standards for professional skills and behaviour as well as additional obligations, such as undertaking continuing professional development (CPD). This ensures continued learning and development throughout their careers, keeping skills and knowledge up-to-date, and ensuring they are able to work safely, legally and effectively. 

  1. They can provide cost-effective psychotherapeutic interventions 

Bruce Howard Bayley, external liaison officer for the BADth, said: “Working with clients creatively and psychologically attempts to secure an emotional wellbeing that is core to the potential impact of other health and social care interventions. This is why arts therapists are recognised for providing more cost-effective psychotherapeutic interventions.”

  1. They can transform the lives and wellbeing of service users 

The benefits to service users can extend well beyond therapy sessions, according to Val Huet, chief executive officer of the BAAT: “Arts therapists are skilled at engaging hard-to-reach service users of all ages, regardless of their conditions. Outcomes can include improved social and communication skills, as well as increased confidence and self-esteem, enabling them to play a more integrated role in society.” 

Case studies provide real-life examples   

As part of the campaign, the HCPC – together with the professional bodies for arts therapists – will be promoting a series of case studies providing real-life examples of how the profession has helped to improve the lives and wellbeing of service users. 

These include the story of seven-year-old Louis. A young carer, he had been suffering nightmares following a serious accident, and exhibited high levels of anxiety demonstrated by obsessive behaviour, sleeplessness and increased worry about everyday activities. Art therapy helped Louis find peace and stopped his nightmares. 

You can read more of Louis’ story, plus additional case studies, in the May/June issue of National Health Executive. You can also follow the social media campaign using the hashtag #WHAT? or search ‘Health and Care Professions Council’ via Twitter or Facebook. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

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