Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions - Art Therapy in South Africa

Find answers to frequently asked questions about Art Therapy below.

Click on the headings and then on the questions to reveal or hide sections and answers.

Art Therapy in South Africa >

1. Can I study Art Therapy in South Africa?

The only way to become a certified Art Therapist is to complete a Post Grad or Master’s Degree at a reputable and accredited University. This can be attained internationally or at one of the 2 Universities offering Art Therapy in South Africa - namely the University of Johannesburg and University of Pretoria (pending 2024).

Following an international training, one then needs to undergo a registration process within South Africa with the HPCSA. An recognized Art Therapy training is 2 years full time or 3 years on a part time basis. Many people think or hope that a short course or a local correspondence course may qualify them to call themselves an Art Therapist, but this is illegal and there is unfortunately no quick fix!

Due to the strong ongoing interest, need and demand for Art Therapy in South Africa, I developed an Art Therapy 5-day Intensive Course which is an introduction to the internationally developed Art Therapy training which was initially only available overseas. The course is targeted at adults of all ages (including professionals and non-professionals, mental health practitioners, therapists, social workers, parents, coaches, facilitators, educators, students and artists) who are interested in and want to learn more about Art Therapy. The skills and experiences gained by participants can be adapted to and incorporated in many work spheres such as art teaching, bringing creativity into a group / team / organization or therapeutic practice and running art groups and workshops. The important experiential components of this course simultaneously serve as a tool for self-reflection, self-awareness and personal development through creativity. The experiential process is an essential part of any authentic, meaningful and useful Art Therapy experience.

There are also various other shorter Art Therapy Workshops now available – all of which will give you an authentic taste of the Art Therapy process. Most of the Art Therapy workshops are facilitated in Cape Town. The Art Therapy 5-Day Intensive Course is also facilitated in Johannesburg once a year. However, existing workshops may also be facilitated in other cities for existing groups and teams upon request. For more details on available workshops please click here

2. How do I register as an Art Therapist or practice Art Therapy legally in South Africa?

In order to be able to practice Art Therapy legally in South Africa or call oneself an Art Therapist the following steps need to be taken:

  • Completion of an international two year Master’s Degree (or Postgraduate Diploma) in Art Therapy from an internationally accredited University OR Honours and Masters in Art Therapy at University of Johannesburg (UJ) and pending from 2024 University of Pretoria
  • 1000 supervised clinical hours of practice (minimum requirement)
  • Passing specific registration examinations with the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) in South Africa (internationally trainings)
  • Registration with the HPCSA as an Art Therapist whereby you receive an Art Therapy practice number
  • Registration with SANATA – the South African National Art Therapy Association

3. What do the registration examinations with the HPCSA involve?

The registration process with the HPCSA include some/all of the following examination procedures: written case studies, video presentations, written and oral exams, papers on ethics and research, clinical work for the board with specific client groups in order to attain required clinical hours of Art Therapy practical experience. For more info on the registration process, please go to

4. Is Art Therapy recognized by the Health Professions council of South Africa (HPCSA)?

Yes. Art Therapy currently falls under the category of 'Single medium therapy' with the HPCSA.

5. Where can I check if an Art Therapist is legally trained or registered to practice in South Africa?

For a list of trained and registered Art Therapists in South Africa, please click here.

6. I live outside of Cape Town (or South Africa) but would like to attend Art Therapy individually or in a group...

For Individual Art Therapy you can book a Zoom session online. Please see section below for more info on Online Art Therapy.

For an Art Therapy Group experience please have a look at the different workshops and Seminars on offer both in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Note that these workshops can be facilitated for existing groups in different cities upon request. Click here for more info on workshops.

7. How do Online Art Therapy sessions work?

Online Art Therapy sessions have become increasingly popular overseas especially with people who prefer to have therapy in the comfort of their own homes, live far from the therapist, or are unable to travel. The ability to work with art via the Web brings a unique opportunity to experience Art Therapy regardless of where you live.

Individual online sessions can be used for Art Therapy, Creative Coaching, Counseling and Supervision of client work where art is used.

For Online sessions - you will need a computer/ipad, internet access, webcam, Zoom and some basic art materials such as paper / paint / crayons / pastels / koki pens (felt pen or marker) / chalk / charcoal / clay.

Please click here to enquire about Individual Art Therapy Online sessions. There is a discounted rate when booking 4 sessions upfront. Medical aid reimbursements are available.

8. Supervision

Supervision is very beneficial when you are working individually with clients or with creativity in groups, so that you continue to feel assured that you are facilitating as objectively as possible to suit the needs of the clients. Supervision may be done in person or via Skype and each session is 1 hour.

9. Can I claim back from medical aid for attending Art Therapy individually or in a group or workshop?

Yes. After attendance of Art Therapy sessions / groups / workshops, you can then submit claims and get reimbursed by medical aid. The reimbursement comes from your savings portion of medical aids. You are welcome to email me at requesting a mock medical aid statement with codes, so that you can confirm with your medical aid.

Studying Art Therapy online or through correspondence >

1. Can I study Art Therapy online or through correspondence?

There is NO legitimate Art Therapy Training SOLELY through correspondence. Human interaction and real live relationships are a vital component of any recognized professional Art Therapy trainings. As an Art Therapy trainee, one needs to experientially participate in the art making process during the training with others and with trained qualified Art Therapists. This live, real relationship that develops with the therapist cannot be simulated through a correspondence experience. Much of the ‘teaching’ in the Art Therapy process is learnt through active participation of being the ‘client’ with a qualified Art Therapist.

Art Therapy Internationally >

1. How long is a legitimate Art Therapy training internationally?

Art Therapy is a 2 year Post Graduate/Masters training available internationally or with University of Johannesburg (UJ) which consisting of a 1-year Honours followed by a 2-year Masters. I completed my Art Therapy PgD training in London at the University of Hertfordshire. Certified Art Therapy Trainings are also available in many different countries overseas including America, Australia, London, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand etc.

2. What background do I need in order to apply for an Art Therapy training

  • Undergraduate degree (E.g. BA / BCom / Fine Art / Social Work / Teaching / Nursing etc.)
  • Psychology background (E.g. Psy 1, 2 & 3 through UNISA)
  • Honours degree
  • Art experience and comprehensive personal art portfolio
  • Experience in working with people (professionally or community/volunteer work)
  • Personal therapy with a qualified and registered therapist (Art Therapist or other)

3. What does a legitimate International Art Therapy Training involve?

The 3 main modules of the Art Therapy included: Theory, Experiential work and Clinical Placement.

Lectures, peer presentations, dissertation and various papers on different topics. Some of my personal favourite theorist who have contributed to the study of Art Therapy include Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Wilfred Bion and Joy Schaverian – all of which I include on both the 3 and 5-day courses.

Experiential Workshops including the following in my training (in 1998-2000):

  • Short term workshops using Art, Clay and other Arts modalities e.g. Drama Therapy
  • Training Group: Weekly psychodynamic Art Therapy group for 2 years
  • Peer-led Art Therapy workshops
  • Psychodynamic-based weekly large Art Therapy group with both full-time and part-time students
  • Weekly Studio Practice: Art Therapy studio's and art materials available for self-directed art process work. Use of a personal journal compliments track of ones process.
  • Final Art exhibition of full 2 year Art Therapy journey

Clinical placement/Internship (this, of course, differs per student):

My placements included 2 days per week for a year at each of the following institutions:

  • 1st Year: Working at a mainstream primary School individually with 7 boys who were diagnosed with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD).
  • 2nd Year: Working at a psychiatric adult mental health hospital for adults with psychosis. (Facilitation of both individual and group sessions with adults with acute and chronic psychosis).

Supervision included:

  • Individual weekly supervision at each annual clinical placement
  • Supervisor visits at clinical placements
  • Group supervision as part of multi-disciplinary team on placement
  • Group Clinical supervision at university

Personal Therapy:

An essential requirement of ANY Art Therapy certified accredited training is to attend personal weekly therapy. One needs to simultaneously be working through one's own experiences and personal process within a professional and safe, facilitated space on an ongoing basis in order to remain objectively professional with clients.

4. Where can I study overseas/internationally?

Art Therapy in General >

1. What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy involves the use of different art materials through which a client can express and explore thoughts and feelings in the presence of a qualified Art Therapist. The Art Therapist offers a safe, contained and supportive space in which to work through issues and concerns. For many clients, it is easier to relate to the therapist through the art object, which provides a focus for discussion, exploration and analysis. The therapist and client then work together in trying to understand the client's creative journey process and the image making process within the session. Art Therapy can be a very powerful process, which may enable long buried feelings to come to the surface and be acknowledged.

"It is the capacity of art to be a bridge between the inner world and outer reality which gives the image the role as mediator. The image mediates between unconscious and conscious, present and future aspects of a client." (The Handbook of Art Therapy: Caroline Case and Tessa Dalley, p 97).

2. How did Art Therapy start?

Art Therapy was a term first used in Britain in 1942. Two strands developed - one was a sensitive form of art teaching, the other as an aspect of psychotherapy through art. Throughout the 1940's, many artists became interested in using their skills with patients in hospitals and clinics. The development of post-graduate training in Art Therapy then began in the 1970s, which further induced greater professional credibility.

3. Is Art Therapy only for children?

No, Art Therapy is not only for children! Art Therapy is beneficial for all people of all ages and provides an opportunity for adults and children to get in touch with their inherent creativity, a quality that everyone has. Even if you have not drawn/painted since kindergarten – you will be able to re-connect with your creativity through the Art Therapy process.

4. Is Art Therapy done individually or in groups?

Art Therapy is useful for both individual and group settings. You many choose either depending on your needs, budget, and availability.

5. Who may benefit from attending Art Therapy?

Art Therapy has proved to be helpful for a range of clients and is suitable for adults and children of all ages.

Various client groups that I have worked with include people with Anxiety, Depression, Emotional and Behaviour problems, Autism, ADHD, Indigo and Crystal children, Developmental Delay, Refugees, Trauma victims, HIV Aids and orphans, Educators, learning difficulties, Department of Education, Correctional Services and Psychiatry.

Art Therapists may work in a variety of different settings both with individual clients and groups. Settings may include private practice, family settings, psychiatry, hospitals, special and mainstream education, learning difficulties, clinics or day centers, social services and prisons. In fact Art Therapy is so versatile that I facilitate creative workshops for corporates for teambuilding (more info here)!

6. What are the advantages of using ART in therapy?

Art is a universal language that transcends language barriers and cultural differences Communication is a key aspect of therapy. Using art as a means of communication and self-expression is less threatening than using only words and talking. Self-expression is an essential ingredient in psycho-emotional development. Using art may be an easier way to express emotions. It provides an opportunity for adults to play; a freedom that is often lost. It provides an opportunity for children to play; something that may be difficult especially if there is anxiety or haven taken on adult responsibilities too early in life. It provides a re-engagement with an individual's creative abilities - a process that encourages exploration and emotional growth, relaxation and spontaneity in being creative. Active participation for absolutely everyone including physically disabled people. Confidence building, self-validation, realisation of one's potential. It provides a freedom to make decisions and experiment or test out ideas creatively. It provides insight, self-awareness, self-reflection and ordering of experiences visually (creatively) and verbally. Creative problem solving especially when something turns out 'wrong'.

7. What's the difference between Art Therapy and Art lessons?

A huge difference! Art Therapy is an engagement in a process of art making in the presence of a trained Art Therapist who provides a safe and nurturing non-judgmental space. The focus is on the process of art making instead of only the art image.

Art lessons involve learning and development of art techniques such as painting, sculpture and/or drawing. The focus is on the end product in terms of its aesthetic value. There may be judgments or expectations around the art product in wanting it to be 'good' or 'right' or perfect. There is no right or wrong in Art Therapy and no judgments are made on the artwork.

8. Do I have to be 'good' at art?

Absolutely NOT! Knowledge of art is NOT a prerequisite for attending Art Therapy, and no judgments are made on the quality of the work produced. Everyone can make art and use it to explore their thoughts and feelings. Art Therapy can even be used with clients who do not have the coordinating capacity to hold a crayon or brush. For such clients the emphasis is placed on activities using water, sand, or other materials that provide an avenue for communication. It is unlikely that the client will use every available moment in the session for the making of art. The moments of not-doing are equally important in Art Therapy sessions, and may be equivalent to the silences within verbal therapy sessions.

9. Does the Art Therapist make interpretations of the client's art work?

The Art Therapist and client work together in exploration of what the image may mean or represent for the client. It is important to work with the client in order to not jump to conclusions around what the image may mean subjectively for the therapist. Within the relationship between the therapist and client, the images may elicit fears, associations, desires, fantasies, hopes, dreams and memories. The role of the Art Therapist is to create a safe space in which the voice of the image can be heard and understood. This enables reflection and understanding and the working through of issues and concerns.

I work non-directively for individual sessions, meaning that I allow and encourage clients to work at their own pace on their own ideas and themes that organically emerge. Other Art Therapists may work more directively or in theme-based manner, but this ultimately depends on the client(s), type of workshop, the aims and goals of Art Therapy and the therapist's style and preference.

10. How do you use the art materials in Art Therapy?

Clients may use the art materials in any way they wish provided it is safe for the client, the studio and the therapist. There is not a specific structure or format to an individual Art Therapy session as each session is determined by both the style of the therapist and the personality and of the client, as well as where the client is at in their life. For example, one client may enter the Art Therapy room and want to make art immediately, whereas another client may struggle to get started with the art. A client may prefer to talk before browsing the art materials or talk simultaneously whilst creating an image. A child may want the therapist to make art with him/her. A client may even talk the entire session and not venture toward the art materials. What is important is the way in which a client uses the space, as this is useful material to explore in relation to the clients inner world.

11. What art materials do you use in Art Therapy?

Art materials may vary and include paint, pastels, clay, crayon, collage, ink, koki's, sand, charcoal, different paper, board, objects, containers, shoe polish etc. and combinations thereof. Each art material and process may evoke different feeling states and the work created often reflects the unconscious forces and experiences that shape a person's life.

12. How are Art Therapy Sessions structured?

Individual Art Therapy:

Each session is 45 minutes for children and 1 hour for adults.

It is recommended that clients attend regular Art Therapy sessions at a consistent time each week. These boundaries create a structure necessary for the building of both trust in the process and a relationship with the therapist. To learn more, go here.

Group Sessions:

Range in duration depending on nature of the workshop/group/course.

Please see the Courses & Workshops page for Art Therapy groups.

Your rights when working with an Art Therapist or Counsellor >

Please remember that you always have the right to ask a health professional for their credentials. For example, an Art Therapist must be registered with the HPCSA in South Africa and have a registered practice number as well as an Art Therapy registration number starting with AT. As an example, my Art Therapy Registration Number is AT 0000469 (view verification document here).

Formal SANATO statement on Helios – The Art Therapy Academy >

Please beware of misleading organisations offering what they call an “Art Therapy Training” for example Helios ( or the Art Therapy Academy ( The Helios Training is NOT run by any registered Art Therapists and hence they are NOT registered with SANATO – the South African National Art Therapy Association. HPCSA representatives have taken up this issue legally as it undermines the quality control of Art Therapy in South Africa. Please click here for the formal SANATO statement on Helios – The Art Therapy Academy.

For a list of trained and registered Art Therapists in South Africa, please click here.

“I grew more than I thought possible.”

- Alfred -

“For the first time in my life I have discovered my true identity and can now answer the fundamental question of who I am!”

- Nonhlanhla -

“The magic that Sam unleashes through her knowledge is beautiful.”

- Charmaine -

“An inspirational, wonderful, creative self-exploratory journey, Thank you!”

- Robyn -

“Thank you for a thought-provoking and inspiring class! You are a fantastic therapist with a very caring and compassionate approach to listening! You made each and every person feel important by allowing each one the opportunity to feel safe enough to open up! Thank you for that.”

- Candace -

“Sam, you are so experienced and it is evident in your facilitation. You are really good at your job and do it with such professionalism.”

- Meryl -

“The course went beyond my personal expectations. I came thinking that we would mainly be learning about Art Therapy, which we did, but it was a big transformational experience for me which I was not expecting.”

- Megan Main-Baillie (Honours Psychology Student) -

“The Art Therapy was a gentle, creative and fun way to build trust and deliver outcomes. It was enjoyable and an extremely valuable experience in our Strategy workshop.”

- Daniella: Business Connexion -

“I didn’t realize how much I NEEDED Art Therapy. It was like rain falling on desert soil. And I have grown so much. My heart feels alive again. I will be back!”

- Heather (Owner of a Montessori Nursery School, Degree in Television) -

“It was a time to forget about the problems and the world around me. Sam is a brilliant facilitator. Even though I was nervous, it was a time for me to reflect and to enjoy how therapeutic art can be. It calmed the storm that reigned inside of me. The Mandala Art Therapy workshop is like having a picnic next to a quiet river. You granted time to reach that point where you can become quiet and can experience the Universe.”

- Anonymous -

“A very comprehensive and thorough intro into Art Therapy. Covered a lot of ground in 5 days and left with a priceless manual and a warm glow.”

- Kat -

“It was the best week of my life, I learnt that I could always be happy as long as I was in a happy and comfortable space, and if I wasn’t I needed to create that space. I learnt that I was in control and all I had to do was to take charge and have fun and paint on a bigger board i.e. see the bigger picture. I am so grateful for the opportunity that came my way and that I was able to embrace and savor it.”

- Anonymous -

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