I am often asked to deliver intensive introductory programmes in countries where art therapy is not established but where there is willingness and intention to do so. For practical reasons, the programmes usually last for a week. Mostly the participants are professional workers and can be given ‘time out’ for this period. I emphasise that I believe that a combination of theory and experiential work is the most effective method of learning about the art therapy process and that I use a group interactive approach to teaching and conducting experiential groups. I also emphasise that the introductory programme is not designed to enable them to practise art therapy afterwards but to enable them to understand its potential as a treatment modality. Some may wish to go on to further training of course.
This way of working is unfamiliar in many countries, as I have come to realise. Terminology familiar in one place is not in others. I quickly realised that, in one centre I was working in, ‘workshop’ meant ‘seminar’—that is, a verbal description and demonstration of the fundamentals of art therapy, whereas I meant an involvement of the participants in the actual process of working with materials in a group. This was naive on my part, but fortunately could be sorted out before the course started and people were eager to become involved in a ‘hands on’ experience. I am now very careful to point out that active participation in the process is part of the course and that the experience is almost certain to stir participants up emotionally. Therefore, as participants are usually selected by directors of training, heads of department or hospital chiefs, it is essential that, in so far as they are able to predict, these selectors do not expose people who are likely to be damaged by the course.
Unfortunately, it still happens that people join the course who are seeking a lecture format and to be told ‘how to do’ art therapy on patients. Others are coming for personal therapy. I have found it important to spend some time in individual discussion with each participant prior to the course to establish their aims and expectations. It is worrying that some people do not read or understand the course description beforehand, such is their enthusiasm to attend. Appreciating that it is possible to want to know ‘how