Art Therapy


What is Art Therapy

Art Therapy aims to help people better manage how they respond to difficult or overwhelming emotions, so that they can have kinder relationships with themselves and others. We aim for safer, more fulfilling lives and improved self-care. We do this through encouraging people to express, contain, explore and reflect on their thoughts, feelings and difficulties they may be facing. 

Art Therapy is a psychological profession and is also known as Art Psychotherapy. It uses art making as part of the process of therapy, allowing a non-threatening and deep expression of emotions. It is particularly helpful for patients who are unable to respond to more verbal or directive forms of psychological treatment. 

In NHS Ayrshire & Arran Art Therapy is offered in the Community Learning Disability Service, for patients with a learning disability and associated conditions who may be struggling to live independently or at home. 

  • Art Therapy is not an art lesson
  • Art Therapy is not about providing an activity to distract a client or cheer them up
  • Artistic skill is not necessary
  • Artwork is not interpreted 


What is an Art Therapist?

An Art Therapist is a clinician who has done a recognised training course and is State Registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). They are experienced in using art materials and psychological processes. The HCPC is a governmental body designed to protect the interests of the public when they seek a health care practitioner ( Art Therapists are also registered with the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) (


Appointments and Clinics

Community Learning Disability Service

All Art Therapy sessions are held at the North West Kilmarnock Centre where we have purpose-built facilities. All sessions are one-to one and will be at same time each week, with each session normally 50 minutes in length and tailored to the needs of each patient.

Following a brief period of assessment, treatment is normally nine months to two years, with shorter treatments of 12 weeks for difficult bereavement or support during significant changes, such as moving home.

When a client leaves a session they may not want to talk to people around them about what happened, and this is quite normal. If you support a patient attending sessions, then we would suggest that you don't ask them about what happened during a session, or ask whether they enjoyed it, as this may put them under pressure to further share their feelings or put their experience into words, which may be quite difficult.

A client may feel vulnerable, withdrawn or restless prior to and after a session in response to acknowledging and processing sensitive material.

Art Therapy treatment is like a course of medication and so it's important that your client attends all weekly sessions on time, as this has been found to be an important part of the treatment.


How can I access Art Therapy? 

Community Learning Disability Service 

We cannot accept referrals for Art Therapy direct from patients or GPs, but we do receive referrals from other professions such as Community Nursing or Social Work for clients already known to the Community Learning Disability Service. If you or someone you know with a learning disability wishes to access Art Therapy then please approach the Community Learning Disability Team on the appropriate numbers below. You can also contact the Art Therapist direct for an initial conversation. Referrals might be for any of the following issues: 

  • Patients who have shown a significant change in behaviour; this may be challenging, violent, withdrawn or just unusual behaviours that are affecting their every-day life
  • Patients who appear unable to express whatʼs going on for them
  • Patients who show a lack of autonomy or difficulty making confident choices
  • Patients with apparent lack of self esteem and poor relationships with others
  • Patients that have or are about to experience significant social change, such as moving into permanent accommodation
  • Patients with mental health conditions that require improvement in self management 

The Art Therapist can advise on treatment options, as well as provide advice to the patientʼs care team on overall approach in working with individual patients away from therapy, such as assisting in personal boundaries, managing emotional wellbeing, managing behaviours, activities, and relationships. 

Community Learning Disability Teams

North Ayrshire - Team Co-ordinator: Marion Gilchrist telephone: 01294 323559

East Ayrshire - Team Co-ordinator: Nicky Jenkins telephone: 01563 578567

South Ayrshire - Team Co-ordinator: Steve Wright telephone: 01292 614906 

Art Therapist: Simon Marshall, telephone: 01563 578703