Settling in to an Art Therapy Placement:

“The Groundwork for Great Work”

Meet Jenny

My name is Jenny Jamieson and I am a student Art Therapist in my second year of the Msc Art Psychotherapy (International) at Queen Margaret University. I have the great privilege of being on placement two days a week in one of Alzheimer Scotland’s busy day centres in the west of Scotland. The service I provide includes facilitating a small art therapy group and also working with individuals one to one.

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Meet Leah

My name is Leah Mackay and I am also a second year Art Therapy Student on placement at one of Alzheimer Scotland’s dementia resource centres. Art therapy fits into the service well, providing a therapeutic intervention both on an individual basis and in small groups.

We have been working with Alzheimer Scotland staff to make sure that all the things we need for our role are in place.

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It is our hope that through sharing our five ideas of being an art therapy student will be will be useful for anyone interested in supporting art therapy to happen where they are.

  • Tools of the Trade


Central to the provision of Art Therapy within any setting is access to a range of art materials. A basic range of materials could include:  clay, paints, chalk and oil pastels, a range of paper, pencils, pens and brushes.  The list could go on and on but it is amazing what can be created from very little!  Once a person gets a feel for the materials they can choose to use them how they wish.  For example, felt tip pens lend themselves well to controlled mark making whereas clay and paint can be squeezed and smeared in a less predictable process.

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Art therapy provides a time and space to express thoughts and feelings that can be difficult to put into words. It is not an art class; there are no rules about what to create and how to do it. It allows someone the opportunity to use the materials in a different way, offering the chance to explore and even make a mess! So, while it may not always be possible to have a sink in the same room it really is necessary to have one nearby.

  • The Right Room


We try as often as we can to have the art sessions in a private room. As very personal topics and emotions can be shared in art therapy so it’s important that there are no interruptions. It is also important that sessions are held at the same time and place each week to provide consistency. However, we are not looking for the perfect art studio. Part of the task of a trainee art therapist is to learn to work creatively with available spaces to ensure that the environment is right for safe and effective art therapy.

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  • Storage Hunters


Art work can be deeply personal and the art therapist is trusted to look after art work until the end of therapy. Careful consideration is given to the provision of a secure space for the safe storage of art work so that it comes to no harm.  A lockable cupboard or drawer or a filing cabinet are examples of suitable storage spaces.

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  • Solid Support


Supervision is of central importance to trainee and experienced art therapists alike. For students, profession specific supervision is provided by a health care professional council registered (HCPC) practitioner within our university but on-site supervision is just as important. Weekly supervision with the people we work with in Alzheimer Scotland enables effective communication around any issues that may arise in order to support and inform our learning as students.

  • Information Exchange


As students, access to information about Alzheimer Scotland services is essential but it has also been important for us to share information about what we can offer. Before we begin Art Therapy sessions with the people who come to the Alzheimer Scotland services we provide information about what it is and what it involves and may provide ‘taster’ sessions so potential participants can try using different art materials. Art Therapy students will also be working to evaluate the work we are doing and will be asking the question,

“What was important for you” during our art therapy session today?

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Thank you for reading our blog and we are interested in your thoughts.

Perhaps you would like to share your experience of using art materials in our comments section. What has been important for you?

For more information about Art Therapy, go to


Adrienne McDermid-Thomas

Alzheimer Scotland AHP Practice Education Facilitator


My role is to build on a programme of work of developing AHP student practice placements, an AHP internship programme and AHP volunteer opportunities in Alzheimer Scotland supporting the aspiration that all allied health professional students are skilled in dementia care on graduation.  I have had some really positive experiences of joint AHP working in the past and am very much looking forward to this further opportunity to work together with AHP colleagues and Alzheimer Scotland to develop ways of working which are sustainable and best suited to meeting the needs of people living with dementia and their carers and families.


3 questions to shape this year’s blog posts in dementia care

Let’s talk about dementia shares the work and practice of allied health professionals in relation to dementia care. It aims to offer advice to people living with dementia, their carers, partners and families. The blog also offers a source of information to other health and social care professional colleagues.  In 2014 we posted blogs about how an allied health professional can help you with a focus on falls prevention, communication tips, eating well and an enabling home environment.  What else would you like to know from:

  • Art therapy
  • Dietician
  • Music therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Paramedic
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatrist*
  • Speech and language therapy


What self-care information from this group of professionals (outlined above) would be helpful for you to live well with dementia that we can post in Let’s Talk about Dementia?

We have shared the role of some of the people who we work with in Alzheimer Scotland and who work here including our occupational therapy intern, occupational therapy student and a dementia advisor

What other work and roles would you like to hear about that we are leading on in Alzheimer Scotland?

We have also shared new and developing work in the area of dementia care including dementia friendly communities, exploring the potential of digital technology, living well in a care home and dementia and work

What other new work do you know about in the area of dementia care would you like us to include in our weekly blog posts?

We would welcome your positive comments and feedback on how to make this blog useful to you and it would be great if you could comment on our three questions posted or email us at


*formally known as a chiropodist