Saint Catherine's Hospice, Doncaster

27th March to 6th of April; Ad Hoc. 

A patient's painting, created from my workshop. Acrylic Paint and Inks on paper, A3 (2018)


It all started when…

I arranged this placement, mainly through emails and contacts. I knew that I wanted to gain some experience within Art Therapy, for my Professional Practice Project, as I know that my career goal is to be an Art Therapist. However it’s very hard to gain experience because of confidentiality. Around November 2017 I emailed a lot of hospitals including in Bath and at home (Doncaster) asking if I can volunteer in between university for example in Doncaster in Easter break, reading week, Christmas etc, and in Bath at weekends. None got back to me, until around January. I received a phone call from a man at a hospital in Doncaster, who can arrange placements and he said he could arrange a placement for me, however he said it wouldn’t be great experience for art therapy so maybe I should try elsewhere, and so I kept emailing places and got several calls telling me I should go elsewhere, until eventually I found a man at a hospice in Doncaster who arranges placements, and said he can find me somewhere to gain direct experience with art therapists, which was great. I was really surprised how helpful he was, he handled everything including getting in touch with my university to make sure it's part of my course and so it would count as my professional practice, because it was part of my university course. He arranged me to have a placement at a hospice in Doncaster, and the hospice were really understanding and flexible, especially since they knew that I couldn't meet up with them until I literally started as I was living in Bath. At first I was a little worried about working in a hospice as it's not somewhere I've ever been, and it's not the nicest of settings, however I figured I should give it a go, if I want to get into this profession I figured I may actually have to work in places like these.

From the moment I started, I felt very welcomed. The staff were so friendly. I informed them of my epilepsy, and they were great and just reminded me that they care. As I've already said, I will admit, I had the conception that Hospice’s are scary (apparently a lot of people have this too) however it was a lovely environment, very relaxed, full of smiles, and not at all scary.

It was quite surprising for me, to be in an environment that was so relaxed and based around being happy. You didn’t have someone watching over your shoulder all day, you did what you could and that was enough, no shouting, no being bossed around, and I was in my element using art and sharing my ideas whilst also learning!
I was initially most of all scared of bonding with patients, and not being good enough at Art to help them. However, I met Art Therapist Rachel and she helped relax me so much, and gave me advice to just be patient based, talk to them, connect to them, and using the info you find out, then plan art activities based around it.

I learnt that motivation is key. Inspiring patients, which actually involved showing some of my pieces! And making them feel welcome, and able to create anything. I noticed a lot of similarities in my practice that I was using at the Hospice. In my practice I base my artwork around my emotions, focusing on expressing them rather than focusing on realism, and that’s what we were trying to tell the patients to do.

One key moment from my experience, is working with a patient who couldn’t fully communicate, and was slightly paralysed, so could move her arms from a stiff position, but could move her fingers.  I was told that she still enjoys painting. Which I was surprised by! I was especially surprised at her motivation, she held a paintbrush in her hand and using her fingers, dabbed at the paper with the paint, creating lots of marks. I was terrified thinking, how do I know what she wants to do, if she can’t tell me?! However I spent the full afternoon, simply sat with her, handing her the paintbrush, moving the paper, showing her colours, and most of all, focusing on simple clues to help me understand her way of communicating. By the end of the day, I felt like we had communicated and had created a piece, how she wanted to create it. She chose the colours, the position, and what was great was that after each colour, she chose a white paint to go over the top of the colour. The end result to me was so emotional. And I realised how proud I felt, to have helped her express herself in this way.

My second best experience, was when I worked with a lady with Huntington’s disease, who apparently also loved painting. She told me how she likes to use her hands a lot at the minute, and I decided to see if she would like to create a finger painting, using techniques from my own practice. She agreed, and created a piece wearing gloves, using her hands, fingers and acrylic paints. She said numerous times, how it was so fun for her, and how lovely it felt, and it truly made me happy .


1.What I set out to do

Gain experience working with an art therapist, to see the every day possibilities of the career, and to also see the settings an art therapist works in and how they fit in.

2.Why I did it

I wanted to see if I should consider art therapy as a career. I want a career where I can use my artistic practice and use it to help people.

3. How I did it

I did a lot of research to see where art therapists work, and where would accept me for some volunteer experience, as I know with therapy gaining work experience can be hard because it is confidential.

4. And importantly, critically reflect on the project, and discuss what you have learned

Overall, this experience was important for me. I really enjoyed my time, which actually quite surprised me, as I didn't expect to like being in the hospice environment. However, I realised somewhat quickly, that whilst I love helping people to express themselves through art, and the hospice was a great experience for art therapy, I want to help people using art to possibly recover, and I realised that I actually enjoy analysing the art pieces, which wasn't encouraged at the hospice; rather the art activities were used as a way to pass the time and connect - which was great, but I want to do more.