Hey there! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. My name is Carmina, I'm 32 at the time of writing, and I'm a freelance tutor and writer (amongst other things) about to embark on a three-year part-time MA course in Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths University in London (UK).
I am asking for your help with my tuition fees because in order to work as an Art Psychotherapist, I need to qualify through this course, which will enable me to register with the HCPC (the Health and Care Professions Council) and give me the necessary practical experience on placements. This will allow me to work for the NHS, Social Services, and educational establishments. The course starts in September 2022, so I need to be able to raise at least the first £6,175 for the start of course.
Why Art Psychotherapy? Why now?
My main work is as a tutor, where I work with agencies Knowledge Seekers (to help a variety of students through private tuition) and Leading Lights (to help young people through mentoring and tutoring who are not in mainstream education as a kind of alternative education until they are able to return to school).
As well as tutoring, I also do some content writing, but my passion has always been the arts. I am mostly known as a poet, but I also practise visual art (I did an art foundation course at Central Saint Martins), I dance in a variety of styles as a hobby, and I'm currently working on a project exploring music and spoken word poetry, and learning the ukulele.
At A-level, well as English and Fine Art, I studied Psychology and it has always been a great interest of mine, having continued to read around the subject over the years. I studied English Literature for my BA and a Creative Entrepreneurship MA at UEA because these courses felt right at the time. I feel that my experience to date has led me to this journey of becoming an Art Therapist and that now the time is right.
To me, becoming an Art Therapist is a practice that I required a certain level of life experience before pursuing. I had contemplated a variety of therapy courses, and after both family members and my partner had planted the idea in my head, I finally feel ready to bloom. After working in various part-time jobs since around the age of 16 whilst studying, after my MA, I found myself working at a secondary school as an Academic Mentor for English. At this time, we were going through a recession and the message was to take any job you could get, so that's what I did.
Whilst this role gave me invaluable experience, I stayed there for four years and became too comfortable despite not earning much money (between £16-18000 a year, in London). I studied a CELTA course part-time and taught EFL (English as a Foreign Language) for a summer in Vietnam before moving to live in Spain for a year (partly due to my heritage, partly the sunny weather...) When I returned to the UK in 2017, I decided to do what I had intended to do before: I became self-employed. And I have been ever since. I don't earn huge amounts, but since moving out my parents' in 2020, I am able to afford to live in a two-bedroom flat with my friend (and occasionally some mice, which have caused me some distress!)
In addition to this work, I have spent a lot of my creative work on producing arts events that showcase women and non-binary people called 'She Grrrowls'. I produce regular events (currently online as The Poetry Cafe is closed) and I have also toured the show twice with ACE funding, edited an anthology (published by Burning Eye Books), completed three runs at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and I've just produced my first day festival at The Albany in Deptford as part of the Lewisham Borough of Culture Award. My own poetry is published by Burning Eye, and I have an essay in 'Spoken Word in the UK' (Routledge, 2021). My latest book was a mixed media collection of old work, and previously 'Circles' explored mental health through a longform poem and illustrations. As well as being widely published, I also share my poetry on stage, including festivals such as Bestival and Lovebox.
Becoming an Art Therapist now just makes sense. It combines my passion for the arts with my desire to help people, with human connection at the centre of it. My background in education means that I could be well-suited to working with children, but having also taught adults, facilitated creative workshops, and been a befriender during the pandemic, I am excited about the range of people I could work with and help through this path. Many of my loved ones have struggled with their mental health at different stages in their life, and I have personally benefited from many years of therapy of various kinds as I have explored possible neurodivergent diagnoses. I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and I believe that this part of my identity will help for me to be empathetic with those who I work with as a therapist, as well as resilient to any of the challenges I may face through it.
Why is Art Therapy Important?
I feel like a possible misconception of art therapy could be that it seems ‘wishy-washy’ to some people. I think this has to do with the way that art is continually devalued in our society, as well as the historic stigma that has been associated with therapy. However, I believe therapy can be enormously beneficial to everyone and once I am qualified as a therapist, I will make sure to include some sliding scale options to make sure it is accessible to as many people as possible. Although I think we also face barriers when we come to making our own art as adults because we are worried about it being “good”. Once we overcome that challenge and begin to create, the benefits are immediate: you become present in that moment. The beauty of Art Therapy is that it is about creative expression, not however “good” it is. It can be a useful tool for those who find it difficult to make use of talking therapies due to the non-verbal element, but it can also help people reflect on what they have expressed.
Art Therapy is a long-established therapeutic tradition, which allows you to somewhat bypass cognitive functions, enabling you to open up more to let the therapist in to help. Evidence has shown that Art Therapy can help with depression and anxiety associated with trauma, cancer patients, prison inmates, and people who suffer from a range of psychological problems. It is also important to me that I also keep my art practice alongside being a therapist because I need to live an authentic life that enables me to heal and have joy in my life in order to help the people I work with to do the same.
Where will my journey lead?
Although there are many avenues my journey to becoming an Art Therapist could lead to, this isn’t going to lead to a typical 9-5 job. I hope my work as an Art Therapist will also help me to continue to create and carve out time for my own art. This could mean working in the NHS for two-three days a week working with cancer patients and dedicating the rest of the week to my art practice; it may mean continuing my evening tuition work but seeing Art Therapy clients in the daytime; or it could mean doing more work within education settings during the day and combining work as a tutor and Art Therapist. Whether through my poetry or through this work, my desire to help others through creating connections is what shines through. I know I am fortunate to do this work as this is what make my life feel meaningful and so I want to be able to do the best I can on this course and beyond in my career.
Why do I need your help?
I am currently looking into loan options, but due to my income this looks difficult, and even if successful, it could mean I’m paying it off over the next 7-10 years. Every little helps, so if I am able to raise even part of the funds, it will also help me to get a loan as it will be a smaller loan. I have put the whole cost of the course as the goal amount, but even if I only reach part of this target, it would be a great help. Although I self-funded my first MA, this means I’m not eligible for a postgraduate student loan, even though I need to complete this course to become qualified and work as an Art Therapist; this is the only way.
I will be continuing with as much work as possible whilst studying the course part time in order to cover my living expenses, but I also would like to focus on the course as much as possible to make the most of it. I will be at the university on Mondays and Tuesdays in the first year, and tutoring on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, with any additional work (such as content writing) squeezed in at other times. We are to aim to have one day for studio practice where possible, and there will also be research, reading and writing to be done for the course. Plus, clinical placements start in the second year. It’s a lot! So, if you are able to donate as much as possible, the more I can focus on the course and not worry so much about how to pay for the tuition fees.
As you may know, these fees are so high as the cost of university tuition fees has sky-rocketed in recent years, thanks to a government (many of whom would have benefited from a free university education) whose austerity drive has meant many cuts have directly impacted people’s mental health in the UK. This is why the current government push CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) – it is a short-term treatment that is cheap and simple to deliver; it can work well for some, but it has limitations on who benefits from it. Psychodynamic therapies such as Art Therapy can help those with more severe mental health issues.
I will also be applying for the one studentship that is offered for this course, which I will find out about in November 2022. This would cover a majority of the course fees, so should I be successful, I will donate funds raised here to mental health charities such as Mind and CALMzone instead.