Piloting the use of Arts Award in therapeutic work with children and young people

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust worked with Culture Shift to explore the delivery of Arts Award within therapeutic contexts.  After introductory session on Arts Award for staff and the wider therapeutic community in June 2013, participants’ feedback identified an interest in using Arts Award within a range of contexts.

The pilot was commissioned by Trinity College London as part of the Arts Award Reaching Out programme, with the aim of exploring the delivery of Arts Award within therapeutic contexts, and producing Therapeutic practice settings guidelines for Trinity College.

Who was involved

  • Young people accessing art therapy services across Sussex and Kent
  • 10 therapists from art therapy services across Sussex and Kent
  • Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Support from Reaching Out Programme, Trinity College London
  • Arts award training, project management and evaluation from Culture Shift


The project set out to pilot the delivery of Arts Award within therapeutic contexts with a view to better understanding the value and challenges, and producing national guidelines to further promote engagement in Arts Award within therapeutic communities.

Specifically, the pilot set out to:

  • Train 10 arts therapists as Arts Award Bronze and Silver level advisers
  • Support the trained advisers to identify and work with young people to achieve Bronze Arts Award within the context of their therapeutic relationship
  • Initiate up to 25 Bronze Arts Awards with young people in one to one and group contexts
  • Thoroughly review and reflect on the value and challenges to inform guidance for peer professionals


  • A group of therapists were trained as Arts Award advisers, experienced professional development through new approaches and knowledge, and have added Arts Award to their ‘toolbox’.
  • A group of young people achieved an Arts Award qualification, and the experience also held therapeutic value for those that are not yet entered or voluntarily withdrew.
  • The Arts Award structure and content has delivered on therapeutic goals and provided a bridge between therapy and ‘outside’. It has positively influenced therapeutic alliances and positively activated support networks surrounding the young people. There has been significant personal growth and immense pride in the finished beautiful portfolios of artworks, film, photographs and written reflections.
  • The Arts Award pilot raised a question of where to go next for both the young people and therapists who have been inspired by the experience. Therapists have expressed an aspiration to take more young people through, with one already having begun a further Bronze award with a new young person and started exploring Silver with his existing Bronze candidate. Confidence and understanding of Arts Award has significantly increased and Sussex Partnership are committed to continue to encourage the use of Arts Award with children, young people and young adults.


Back to top

Seeing my young person achieve, and actually be proud of something they have achieved – priceless!


It has enabled the young person to transfer some of the therapeutic benefits of the work outside of the arts therapy session in developing [their] ability to work at home.