Edinburgh-based children’s group worker, Abigail Robertson, was initially apprehensive about returning to academia. However, having now graduated from Queen Margaret University's (QMU) MSc Art Psychotherapy degree and armed with a wealth of experience and skills developed from course placements, Abigail is making her mark in the field of art therapy.

 

About you

 

Tell us a little about yourself such as your hobbies/interests that are related or not related to your course of study.

I studied languages and love travelling. I love to run, cycle and be outside in the hills. I also enjoy printmaking and photography.

 

Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?

I am from Edinburgh and live here, so was fortunate that the course was on my doorstep. It is the only art therapy course in Scotland and, interestingly, is the only course in the UK which is an MSc.

 

The Course

 

What did you enjoy most about your course? What were the highlights?

There has been so much which I have enjoyed - stimulating lectures, getting to know course mates and taking part in art workshops. I found the placements particularly valuable as they offer the chance to be in a work environment and to witness how art therapy can be used. It was a privilege to work with the clients. I also found the opportunity to have personal therapy very grounding for me.

 

Was there a particular activity you found the most interesting?

It was really interesting to do group work and presentations with other art therapy students and music therapy students. I found this to be a really creative way of learning, and a refreshing way of presenting ideas and information. My assignment on proposing a pilot project has equipped me for initiating work and familiarising myself with important procedures and practices as I approach organisations.  

 

How did your lecturers support your learning?

My lecturers were very supportive throughout the course. I found the setting of a small group supervision particularly helpful and valued the input and encouragement from lecturers. The research methods module and the clinical project offered me an opportunity to look at my placement setting and client work in-depth and I received helpful guidance and feedback from my supervisor.

 

What were some of your challenges with the course and university life? How did you overcome them?

I was working as part of a really supportive team before I left my workplace to do the course. I found the change to being a student again and some of the uncertainty challenging at times. Being the first art therapy student in a placement with a client group new to me was initially daunting. I had to learn patience.

 

Did you take part in a placement as part of your course and if so, what was your experience?

Overall I had a really positive experience of placements. As well as putting some of the theory into practice through one-to-one client work, I learnt a lot about working in different environments. My supervisors were excellent and very supportive of both art therapy and myself. I learnt the importance of being open and flexible.

 

Any advice for students who might be interested in this course?

For me the course was a really rich two years of learning and opportunities. Having recently graduated I also feel like I am just beginning as I explore employment. The course gives you a foundation and tools but when you graduate you may need to work out how to build on the foundation or use the tools!

Be open to opportunities and be proactive when you graduate. I was keen to volunteer to gain experience and build my confidence and I think this helped open doors to employment. 

 

Enhancing our student learning and personal development

 

Did you win any awards/scholarship/internships, etc., that have helped you develop skills and experience? If so, please tell us about them.

I applied for and was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Travel Fund through QMU, and completed a placement in Germany shadowing an art therapist working in a school for blind and visually impaired children. This was a rich experience in terms of developing my confidence both personally and professionally just after graduating. It was really exciting to see the wider context of art therapy and make connections with people working in different areas.

 

If applicable, what University services did you use to guide you through your academic journey, and how did they help you?

Staff in the library were very helpful and patient.

 

Life as a Student at QMU

 

What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?

Enjoy the time to read and learn, and to get excited by the subject - although it may feel a pressure at times, when I graduated, I realised it was a rare opportunity.

Everyone works differently but I found pacing myself and working consistently throughout the year meant I avoided a last minute panic!

Also, be open to receiving feedback and learning from your course mates and supervisors.

 

What has been the most valuable lesson that you learned at university?

Not to be too set on a plan - be open-minded and ready for surprises.

 

What are you plans after graduation? Tell us about your ambitions and where you see yourself in the future?

I am currently working as a children’s group worker with children affected by parental substance misuse, am facilitating an art therapy pilot group for adults with anxiety, and support adults with learning disabilities in a print studio. My working week is very varied and I know it will look different in another six or 12 months. I am exploring possible art therapy work with children and parents. I have been very focused on finding and creating work. 

My ambitions? To be able to carve out time for my own art making, to remain being open to opportunities and to find some rhythm.

[Published April 2019] 

 

"The course was a really rich two years of learning and opportunities. Having recently graduated I also feel like I am just beginning as I explore employment."
Abigail Robertson, MSc Art Psychotherapy

Occupational Therapy and Arts Therapies

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