This was a group of nine in an introductory art therapy programme lasting one week. It consisted of daily art therapy workshops run on an interactive model but with some initial setting of open-ended themes by myself. Some theoretical and practical media sessions were also included.
Many of the trainees had an art or art teaching background and were clear that the course was an introduction after which they might be able to consider taking further training in an Art Therapy programme. There were seven women and two men.
It is usual in this centre for the trainees and the conductors to have meals together and on the Sunday evening I encountered some of the participants in the dining room. I am usually friendly and willing to talk about art therapy in general but careful not to get involved in any more ‘personal’ discussion as it makes holding the boundaries of the course somewhat complicated. The participants sense this, as a rule, and normally we manage well over the week.
However, one participant wanted to engage me in intensive discussion. She did not speak English, however, and my understanding was fair but not good, so she asked another participant who spoke French to translate. She asked me for a critique of her artwork from the point of view of an art therapist. She had brought her work to the course for this purpose. I gently said that it was not part of my role to do this, and added that were I to see her artwork, my response would merely be a personal impression of the work, from one artist to another, so to speak. She was not happy with this and urged me to find time to see the work and offer her an ‘analysis’ of it. I repeated my previous comment and excused myself from the table. She was clearly put out by this and for a moment I wondered if I should have a look at the paintings but quickly concluded that I felt uncomfortable at the request because it implied she had not understood the purpose of the course (clearly advertised as an introductory course in art therapy with emphasis on group work) and wanted her own personal therapy. I made a mental note to stress in my introduction that the course was not therapy but that some personal learning may take place; that I should not be conducting the group