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I’ve recently been reading Art Psychotherapy Groups where Sally Skaife and Val Huet cite Bion’s concept of ‘containment’ (1962) in which the group is a container both during the verbal and the art-making process. They go onto describe the art work as providing three phases of containment: projection, digestion and re-introjection. ‘Material is projected and represented in the image. It is then digested within the process of art making and during the group discussion’ (1998:6).

One of the things I’m increasingly thinking about is the function of the container to detoxify thoughts and feelings that are harmful or painful. I have been listening to a podcast about the paintings of Frank Bowling. It’s made me think about the viscosity of paint as an art material and something that I increasingly wanted to experiment with in studio practice. One idea has been to make casts of bowls using different colours of acrylic paint which are poured or ‘swirled’ around the bowl. Having tried this out during studio time, I’ve started to think about containment in terms of digestion/ digestive processes and stomach acid. It’s made me think a lot about bodily functions or bodily fluids. I’m imagining the bowels or the stomach churning though anatomically what does this look like? What colour is stomach acid? The colours are important.

I’ve also started to think about the work I’ve made regarding self-contaiment. Perhaps this sense of being trapped (that is synonimous with the imagery) relays my own experience to being left exposed/ open within the therapy setting.


Skaife, S. & V, Huet, (1998), Art Psychotherapy Groups: Between Pictures and Words, Sussex: Routledge

Tate, (2012), Artist’s Talk: Frank Bowling, Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/talks-and-lectures/artists-talk-frank-bowling, (accessed: 01/12/2012)


Looking back, it’s been a long roundabout journey to get on this course. Something that started with my first discovery of Art Therapy whilst 18; and still in school, and culminated in numerous qualifications acquired and a trickle of jobs – some pertinent to Art Therapy, others not so much. It’s been an amazing trajectory to get to this point though it’s only something I’ve come to appreciate with hindsight.

As such in Art Therapy, David Edwards outlines the revised ‘Core Course Criteria’ for Art Therapy training in the UK in 2004. These are as follows….

That only nationally validated institutions of Higher Education are appropriate venues for art training.

That training should be rooted in psychotherapeutic concepts.

That the length of training should increase from one year full time to two years fulltime or it’s part time equivalent.

That the length of the clinical placement should be increased from a minimum of 60 days to a minimum of 120 days.

And that for the duration of the course each trainee must undertake some form of personal therapy on a minimum basis of one session per week (BAAT, 1992a)


Incidentally the prospect of acquiring all these qualifications and experience; just to get on the course in the first place, and then to train for a further 3 years (part-time) can often elicit mixed responses.

On the one hand, the commitment to study for a further 3 years can induce anxiety as one laments that they’ll be 3 years older before they can be considered fully – qualified. Personally I often wonder if I could have applied to study the MA a little sooner when I reflect upon others on the course who are 7 years my junior. Incidentally this is my second MA course having previously studied at Wimbledon College of Art.

One may also worry what jobs will be available in three time in light of current government cuts in services. Will there still be the same need for Art Therapy as there is now and will the service be recognized professionally? It’s a very real concern.

On the other hand, maybe the length of the course could be seen as a mixed blessing.

As part of a process group exercise I was involved in a few weeks ago I set about working on an individual piece in wet clay. The rationale for working in clay is lost to me now though I seemed to remember that I’d been thinking about the longevity of the course and ultimately where I’d see myself in 3 years time. The resulting art work really struck a chord with me and something that I later brought up in personal therapy. It comprised of a halved egg shape inscribed with a sleeping figure inside. I feel it says a lot about me. Being a student again can often feel like being in some weird incubatory period. At some point I’m going to have to leave University, and get a job, though for the time being I’m happy to have this time set aside to learn and to grow. My only worry is will I be ready to give it up when its time to leave.


Edwards, D., (2004), Art Therapy, London: SAGE Publications Ltd.