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The contribution of art therapy to palliative medicine 

The contribution of art therapy to palliative medicine
The contribution of art therapy to palliative medicine

Michèle J.M. Wood

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date: 07 May 2021

In the United Kingdom, and several other European countries, Canada, Australia, and the United States, art therapy is a state-registered health-care profession and its practitioners complete a postgraduate training for 2 years full-time or equivalent. The training encompasses models of psychotherapy, psychiatry, psychology, and the role and function of aesthetics and creativity in health care. Art therapy training consists of three core elements: the theoretical underpinnings of the practice, experiential engagement in artistic and interpersonal activities (so that trainees develop their capacity for self-reflection and insight and continue to engage in their own art-making) and clinical placements. Clinical placements are central to the training of art therapists, and in this way practitioners also learn about the roles of other health professionals, the function of interdisciplinary teamwork, and art therapy’s contribution to this. Professional registration of art therapists ensures that practitioners continue to maintain the standards of proficiency and professional practice established on qualification. In the United Kingdom, art therapy had its beginnings in the tuberculosis sanatoria of the 1940s but quickly developed within psychiatric and educational settings. Integrated with other care, it has since been widely incorporated into the fields of mental health and learning disabilities. However, there is a growing interest in art therapy with the medically and terminally ill. One recent survey in the UK found over 50% of art therapists in adult cancer care working with people in the palliative phase.

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