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The Impact Of NHS Change Processes On Art Therapists Working In LD Services

29 September 2019

This article by Elizabeth Ashby explores the impact of working as an art therapist in learning disability (LD) services in the NHS...


Research into the impact of working as an art therapist in learning disability (LD) services in the NHS in England during long periods of change processes found sources of stress and of job satisfaction (Ashby, 2018). The doctoral research was qualitative, using heuristic methodology as the researcher had experience of the issues investigated, and 15 art therapists were interviewed.

This article discusses the relevant literature, the way the research was done, and findings of the research; it applies the knowledge gained to the situations many art therapists experience in their practice with different organisations and work environments. The impact on art therapists was investigated as both positive and negative aspects of their working lives were evident, and sources of job satisfaction and of occupational stress were experienced, including burnout symptoms of emotional exhaustion and reduced capacity to work, though not depersonalisation (Maslach, 1982). 

Organisational sources of satisfaction and stress within NHS LD services were identified, and employment issues for art therapists became apparent in relation to job insecurity, within the depressed employment market.

This qualitative research found that personal sources of support or stress could result in art therapists being able or unable to manage coping with occupational stress if multiple sources of stress were present. Burnout symptoms of emotional exhaustion and a reduced capacity to manage their workload resulted from these situations for some participants, however, those affected were able to recover when they addressed the occupational stress that had become too much for them; no participants avoided contact with service users.

This article by Elizabeth Ashby has been published online here


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