The Role of the Art Therapist in Serving the Foster Child’s Relationships

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Hedges, Megan
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
Foster children represent a proportion of youth in need of mental health care, however, there are few therapeutic interventions designed specifically to address mental health issues faced by foster children and their foster families. A review of the literature suggests that the relationship between a foster child and their foster parent(s) provides a stabilizing force for the foster child as they navigate mental health challenges and should be strengthened by the art therapists and other mental health professionals they work with. This research sought to answer the question, What is the role of art therapists in serving foster children and their foster families? Utilizing a survey to glean information from current art therapists across the United States, this study assesses how art therapists currently work with this population and provides a snapshot of these professional’s perspectives of the foster care system and role satisfaction of the art therapist within this system. The data from these surveys was coded and emergent themes were identified. The data suggests that art therapists currently working with this population may be at least moderately dissatisfied with their role as participants were able to identify many barriers to working with this population. These findings suggest art therapists working with this population may experience higher levels of burnout than those working with other populations. The data also suggests that art therapists have an opinion about how they would like their working role with this population to change. Future research should seek to better define the art therapist’s role within the foster care system, how art therapists can best protect themselves from burnout and how art therapy can better serve children in the foster care system and support the foster parents that provide care for this vulnerable group.