University of Chester

Programme Specification
Art Therapy MA
2014 - 2015

Master of Arts

Art Therapy

Art Therapy

University of Chester

University of Chester

Riverside Campus

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

2-3 years

6 Years

Annual - September



17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Health and Social Care Health and Social Care

  • Knowledge and Skills Framework
  • QAA Benchmarks 
  • HPC Standards of Proficiency
  • BAAT Draft guidelines on curriculum content and workplace supervision

University of Chester

Faculty of Health and Social Care, Postgraduate Programmes Assessment Board

Tuesday 1st June 2010

An approved (HPC) training programme to enable students to reach a standard of proficiency to enable them to practice as Art Therapists. The programme follows guidelines set down by the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC), the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) subject benchmarks, and the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF), in respect to art therapy.

The learning, teaching and assessment strategies are congruent with the philosophy of the course and the belief that students, in the last analysis, must take a critical and self-reflective responsibility for their own development and learning, while being provided with a learning opportunity to encourage and support such a process.

A number of different learning and teaching approaches are used. These include art experiential groups, group process work, clinical supervision groups, placement experience and reflective practice sessions.

The overarching aim of the programme is to provide a broad understanding of the theories and practice of art therapy and the therapeutic application of art, to promote psychological understanding of individuals and groups, and to examine the role of art therapy within a multi-modal context, in all of which visual art and the process of image making play a central role.

The programme aims:

  • To facilitate the development of art therapists who will be fit for practice, fit for purpose and fit for award.
  • To develop, via theoretical studies, clinical work and experiential learning, integration of cognitive understanding and practical experience.
  • To develop the students' awareness of self and others.
  • To enable students to examine and explore the role of the image and the process of art making within the therapeutic relationship.
  • To offer a dynamic and quality postgraduate educational experience relevant to art therapists.
  • To facilitate postgraduates to utilise higher level critical, analytical and reflective skills within academic and practice environments.
  • To enable students to be cognisant of the holistic nature of art therapies and to gain comprehensive higher level knowledge, expertise and the individual qualities necessary to work as autonomous, competent therapists within unpredictable professional environments.
  • To enable postgraduates to innovate and apply contributions to the evidence base of practice and communicate conclusions clearly.
  • To continue to develop the students' skills in collaborative practice and the partnership delivery of care, and to consider the impact of their professional role within the organisation and wider context.
  • To provide an understanding of the purpose and principles of art therapy in relation to a range of treatment options and therapeutic frames, understanding of cross-cultural issues and working with difference.
  • To develop originality and sound judgement in leadership and facilitation skills, which will enable postgraduates to implement best practice in service delivery.

Knowledge and Understanding
Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate substantial knowledge and critical understanding of the theories and practice of art therapy, and of the art forms central to it.
  • Critically appraise systems approaches and the importance of collaboration and participationin their practice.
  • Demonstrate the ability to construct and deconstruct key concepts, principles, theories and policies that underpin art therapy practice.
  • Critically appraise the uniqueness of their own rolewithinthe integrated workforce, andevaluate how this can be utilised to empower individuals, groups and communities.
  • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the evidence-based approach to the ongoing development of their role and the effective dissemination of information.
  • Justify the professional, legal and ethical frameworks utilised within the integrated workforce.

Thinking or Cognitive Skills
Studentswill be able to:
  • Demonstrate self-direction, independence of thought, and the ability to think logically and critically.
  • Access, analyse and process information applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship, and demonstrate a critical understandingof the impact of social, political, cultural and economic factors in relation tothe health improvement and wellbeing of individuals.
  • Critically interpret local, national and global health and socialpolicy.
  • Utilise higher level analytical skills when evaluating professional work and that of stakeholders from the student/service user/carer perspectives.
  • Demonstrate independent learning ability when working reflexively and autonomously.
  • Demonstrate originality when exercising innovative and creative thinking strategies.

Practical Skills
Students will be able to:
  • Be demonstrably capable of using advanced practice skills and critical knowledge, required for the assessment, formulation and evaluation of therapy.
  • Be demonstrably capable of the management of professional issues such as codes of ethics, confidentiality and informed consent, record keeping, referral systems, team structures, different work specifications, regulation by the Health Professions Council, and the implications of the Mental Health Act and other relevant legislation such as the Children Act etc.
  • Communicate effectively with stakeholders and individuals, groups andcommunities.
  • Demonstrate innovation andutilisation of change management strategies in the application of evidence-based practice.
  • Demonstrate transformational leadership within collaborative, inter-disciplinary working practices and partnerships in the development/delivery of health improvement and wellbeing strategies/initiatives.
  • Utilise presentation skills.
  • Show ability to integrate their own knowledge and skill of art making within their therapeutic relationships.

Key Skills
  • Communication
  • Application of number
  • Information literacy and technology
  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving

Students will be able to:
  • Communicate effectively with service usersand carers in a way which demonstrates their ability to shareinformation abouttheir client groupand make judgementsabout the actions which might be taken to meet their needs.
  • Empowerservice users and carers tobecome actively involved in meeting their own needs.
  • Demonstrate competencyin being able to applynumeracy skillsappropriately.
  • Be competent in accessing, retrieving and analysing data fromall learning resources including electronic sources, books and journals.
  • Demonstrate transformational leadership andskills in inter-professional working.
  • Demonstrate extensivecreativity with a range of problem-solving strategies.

Transferable Professional Skills
Students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate self-direction in both formal and informal learning environments.
  • Communicate effectively at both individual and organisational levels.
  • Be competent in the use of information technology.
  • Work autonomously and collaboratively within a team.
  • Demonstratehigher literacy, critical appraisaland numeracy skills.
  • Demonstrate inter-professional collaboration and partnership working.

The programme's curriculum is drawn from the Health Care Professions Council's Standards of Proficiency for Art Therapists (2007); the QAA benchmarks for Art Therapists (2004); the Department of Health's Knowledge and Skills Framework (2004); and the British Association of Art Therapists' draft guidelines on curriculum content.

As such the programme covers:

  • Expectations of art therapists in providing patient/client services.
  • The application of art therapy in securing, maintaining, or improving health and wellbeing.
  • Knowledge, understanding and skills that underpin the education of art therapists: for example, psychodynamic and therapeutic models, psychology, sociology, health and disorders, and the role, practice and process of image making.
  • Additional aspects such as awareness of multi-factors that affect health; knowledge and application of evidence-based practice; effective communication skills.

 As this is a professional qualification, all modules will be compulsory.

Master's degrees are awarded to students who have demonstrated:

  • A systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study, or area of professional practice.
  • A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.
  • Originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline.
  • Conceptual understanding that enables the student to develop:
    • The ability to critically evaluate current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline.
    • Skills in evaluating methodologies and developing critiques and, where appropriate, propose new hypotheses. 

Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:

  • Deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgments in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level.
  • Continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level.
  • Demonstrate the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility; decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations; and the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

These topics have been grouped into seven level 7 modules, which carry 20 credits per module with the exception of the Art Therapy Dissertation module, which is a 60 credits module.

Students may exit after completing 3 x 20 credit modules to gain a postgraduate certificate in the Therapeutic Application of Art; similarly they may exit after completing 6 x 20 credit modules with a postgraduate diploma in the Therapeutic Application of Art. However, this will not allow the graduate to use the title 'art therapist' or practice as an art therapist, as this is a protected title and profession.

It is only after completion of the full Master's programme that the student can apply to the Health Care Professions Council for registration, in order to gain the title 'registrant art therapist/art psychotherapist'.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
NM7069 7 Research 20 Comp
NM7500 7 Theoretical Perspectives 20 Comp
NM7501 7 Therapeutics and Communication 20 Comp
NM7502 7 Integrating Theory and Practice 20 Comp
NM7503 7 Placement Preparation 20 Comp
NM7504 7 Placement Experience 20 Comp
NM7505 7 Art Therapy Dissertation 60 Comp

Modules will be formulated at level 7 and offered at 20 credits per module. The award of the Master's degree will be achieved on attaining 180 credits at level 7. It is proposed that full-time students will complete the programme within two years, whilst part-time students will take three years. The adjustment for the part-time students will occur in their placement hours and completion of the Research module NM7069, which will be in yeartwo of their programme.
60 creditsat Level 7 for PG Certificateaward.
120 credits at Level 7 for PG Diploma award.
180 credits at Level 7 for MA award.

The admissions criteria below are part of the QAA Benchmark for Art Therapists.

Potential students applying for the programme have to:

  • Possess an appropriate degree in art or appropriate professional qualification (e.g. occupational therapy, nursing, teaching, counselling, social care).
  • Demonstrate appropriate artistic expression and understanding of the academic basis of artwork as well as the use of art as a form of personal self expression, through the submission of a portfolio at interview.
  • Demonstrate personal maturity, self-awareness, commitment and suitability compatible with training as an art therapist.
  • Have one year's practical experience of working with clients in a care setting.
  • Undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check to enable registration with the Independent Safeguarding Authority, in order to provide protection to vulnerable clients.
  • Complete a health questionnaire to demonstrate fitness to practice.
  • Be aware that students have to have personal therapy for the duration of the course (the cost of which is borne by the student and is in addition to the course fees).

Students will normally be accepted onto the programme only following an interview and assessment of artistic expression by an academic and/or registered art therapist.

In addition, in order for students to achieve the Health Care Professions Council's Standards of Proficiency for Art Therapists, they must be able to communicate in English to the standard equivalent to level 7 of the International English Language Testing System, with no element below 6.5.

It is highly recommended that students attend an 'Introduction (or Foundation) to Art Therapy' course prior to applying for admission to this programme. 

The curriculum will follow the guidelines set down by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC, 2007), the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA, 2004) subject benchmarks, the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF, 2004), and the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), in respect to art therapy.

Completing the MA Art Therapy will enable the student to apply for registration with the HCPC.

Students will experience a variety of teaching and learning methods designed to facilitate the achievement of all learning outcomes at level 7 within a student-centred approach, and to foster personal and professional development.

  • The programme teaching strategy incorporates a blend of transmission and interpretation modes of learning, recognising that some content may be new to the students, whilst believing that adult learners learn most effectively when they seek out, utilise, and apply knowledge for themselves.
  • There will be an emphasis on experiential learning, where students actively create meanings through critical reflection on their own perceived experiences, and receive the views of others in the context of supervision, group discussion, tutorial support and peer review. Reflection will also facilitate the application of theory to practice. The concept of reflection is used within the student's supervision sessions, to enable potential problem-solving, and aiding creativity, dreaming, free-association and/or playing.
  • Strategies for learning include experiential learning through the use of practice placements. Time spent in placement will adhere to the QAA benchmarks for art therapists and the student will complete 120 days of practice within the programme. Art therapy supervisors in placement will develop the students' skills throughout the practice placement. Further opportunities to practise and develop skills will be provided during interactive lectures, practice-related activities, seminar presentations, tutorials, discussion groups, problem-based learning, university placement supervision groups and peer and self-directed learning.
  • More traditional strategies, including lectures, seminars and tutorials, will also form the essential framework. This will ensure that learning is a dynamic two way process in which lecturers and students will teach and learn together. Methods such as presentations and debates, individual and group supervision, e-learning, directed study, private study sessions and problem-based learning will be selected for their appropriateness. This will aim to meet the needs of students as learners, and the particular demands of the learning outcomes and content of each module of study.
  • Image-making is included as a teaching and learning strategy within the programme. Its use promotes personal process work, and enhances and deepens understanding of clinical work. The image can be the focus for further discussion, as can the image-making process, or attempting to understand the unconscious processes that are occurring. Hence image-making by the student, as a learning tool, is supported by the QAA Benchmarks (2004) and the HPC Standards of Proficiency (2007), and the programme will emphasise to the students the importance of developing their own art making practice.
  • As methods of learning and teaching will emphasise student-centred techniques, they will facilitate the student to become an increasingly autonomous learner, able to identify their own learning needs and goals within the parameters of the programme aims and outcomes.
  • The aim is for the modules to be taught as a blended e-learning mode, where students have access to learning materials through e-learning in varying proportions.
  • Information and communications technology, through the University intranet and other online resources, will be used in the delivery of most aspects of the programme, providing a framework for the provision of the course materials.

Students will be exposed to various methods of assessment designed to ensure that the content, outcomes and level of the modules are measured in a fair and transparent manner.

Knowledge, understanding and skills are tested through a range of written assignments, seminar presentations, individual case studies,personal supervision and reflective accounts.

The practice element of the course will be assessed through the use of placement criteria, with reference to the Health Care Professions Council Standards of Proficiency for Art Therapists.

Postgraduates are expected to be at the forefront of contemporary clinical practice, and to offer leadership and clinical direction to their chosen professional arena.

The programme offers students the opportunity to achieve the characteristics of a postgraduate, and it is assessment criteria based upon QAA and University documents which define these characteristics:

  • Demonstrate critical reasoning with regard to complex issues, which shows an ability to explore and develop alternative solutions.
  • Critical evaluation of key concepts of knowledge. Extensive systematic reading and demonstration of insight and originality.
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of relevant knowledge and applicable techniques which are at the forefront of professional practice.
  • Demonstrate synthesis and be able to deal with complex issues in an original manner.
  • Demonstrate a systematic understanding and critical awareness of current and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of professional knowledge and practice.
  • Ability to deploy accurately, creatively and imaginatively established techniques of analysis and enquiry.
  • Ability to critically evaluate current research, methodology and scholarship and, where appropriate, propose new hypotheses.

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

This programme has been planned in close collaboration with the British Association of Art Therapists, in order to promote and reflect the needs of potential registered art therapists.

The programme facilitates the use of the student's local placements to promote minimum disruption of personal life whilst undergoing an academic programme.

Back - to previous page  Print - launches the print options panel