Is There a Need to Define the Role of Art Therapy in Specialist CAMHS in England? Waving not Drowning. A Systematic Literature Review.

Sheilagh Cornish


This paper offers a review of how the role of Art Therapy is represented in four important areas: In Specialist (Tier 3) Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in England, in government and related documentation and polices, within broader literature pertaining to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, as well as in Art Therapy publications. The author found that there are shortcomings in the understanding of the profession including the unique role that art therapy offers, as well as an evident lack of inclusion across the range of literature. The author contends that central factors exerting influence include powerful socio-politico-economic agenda and influence, unprecedented change in the field of psychological therapies, unconscious processes, and limited self-promotion.

The paper argues that lack of clarity and effective promotion of the unique role of art therapy may lead to there being a lack of consideration of art therapy or for art therapy to be decommissioned in CAMHS. The review has worldwide relevance to those concerned with practice, promotion and commissioning of art therapy in services that work children and young people with mental health and psychological needs.

Keywords: socio-politico agenda, promotion, representation, NHS publications, child and adolescent mental health services

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