I was asked by the director of a therapeutic community treating drug and alcohol abuse to run an introductory art therapy course for his staff, which included many people from other countries training in methods of treating substance abuse. I gave an outline for a week-long programme which included several experiential (practical) workshops. I described the method I would use and the materials needed; the maximum number of participants to be twelve.
I met the director. He explained it was the first time that art therapy would be introduced and everyone was excited. He asked me to take thirty trainees, as had been the case with previous courses (e.g. psychodrama). I explained that my approach, which was experiential and required working with art materials (something the participants had never done), was not suitable for such a large group. I could present a seminar or lecture to a larger group but the course participants would be limited to twelve. We compromised on fourteen.
I said we should need a large room as people would move about. Also that it should not be carpeted as it could get messy. Water should be easily available. I gave a list of materials required for the practical workshops.
On arrival at the centre two days before the course, I found I had been allocated sixteen participants and an interpreter. The room was the main seminar room for the centre, complete with carpet, chairs with folding writing block and one or two small tables. The nearest water was in the kitchen, a few minutes walk away. It was exactly the kind of room which should be kept clean and tidy and which was totally inhibiting for our purpose!
I checked with the staff at the centre how far I could go in reorganising the room, beginning with removing the carpet. That was agreed. I asked for several old tables, newspapers and plastic sheeting for the floor, plastic buckets, a mop and a large amount of rag. There was very little wall space uncluttered but I checked the possibility of blue-tacking and pinning