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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Arts & Health South West?

AHSW is an information, support and advocacy organisation for people who believe in the value of creativity in enhancing people’s health and wellbeing.

We aim: 

  • To be the leading arts and health representative / umbrella organisation in the South West;
  • To raise the profile of the arts and health in order to promote understanding and awareness of the role, value and contribution of arts to healthcare within the region; 
  • To build on and strengthen the regional arts and health infrastructure in order to  support strategic and sustainable development of arts and health practice; 
  • To provide information and support for those working in the arts and health sector within the region; 
  • To support health practitioners to deliver health outcomes through targeted arts and health interventions; 
  • To encourage meaningful and productive partnerships between statutory, third sector and independent healthcare and arts organisations within the region;
  • To support the professional development of people working in the arts and health sector; 
  • To facilitate access to the current arts and health evidence base and promote improved understanding of research and evidence in order to encourage robust evaluation practices.

For more information about AHSW go to About Us

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What is Arts and Health?

Arts and Health refers to any creative collaboration between artists and people working in health and social care; and any creative initiative that includes the arts which directly or indirectly is intended to enhance people’s health and well-being.

The health community may wish to work with the arts for a wide range of reasons:

  • The arts can help the health sector deliver its outcomes within specific national, regional and local strategies
  • The arts can help deliver different partners’ shared priorities, for example in relation to engaging disaffected young people, tackling obesity, nurturing user-led advocacy, supporting independent living and helping to regenerate communities
  • Engaging with artists can make people feel better, improve people’s self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Engaging with artists can improve people’s quality of life and can be used in a preventative way to promote good health and general well-being
  • The arts promote a well cared for and welcoming environment and create public spaces of distinction
  • Artists provide innovative ways of working, and many are good at fulfilling a number of different agendas, working across sectors and with different interest groups
  • The arts can be used to educate people about specific health issues
  • The arts are a good way to include and involve staff, and can improve staff morale
  • The arts can help health organisations build links with the local community
  • The Arts Therapies offer Art, Dance, Music or Drama as a psychological therapy

The arts and health sector in the South West is extremely diverse - particularly in terms of the type of work being done, the art-forms used, the client groups with whom people work, and the scale and sustainability of the work.

People initiating arts and health work include:

  • Primary, Acute and Mental Health Trusts
  • Local Authorities (including Social Services, Arts Development, LEAs, and the Youth Service) 
  • Voluntary Sector Health and Social Care organisations
  • Public Health agencies 
  • General Practitioners
  • Artists 
  • Arts Therapists 
  • Arts Organisations
  • Teaching Hospitals 
  • F.E. and H.E. Colleges
  • People working in Public Health
  • People working in Local Authorities (including Arts Development, Children’s and Young People’s services, Health and Social Services)
  • People working in the Voluntary / Community Sector involved in health and social care
  • People working in the medical humanities
  • People working in education
  • People working in strategic regional organisations
  • Members of the General Public

The types of work includes:

  • People working in the Medical Humanities
  • People using creative writing and poetry in a health context
  • GPs developing arts initiatives 
  • The different arts therapies 
  • People developing Public Art projects for new healthcare facilities 
  • Arts Co-ordinators employed by Acute Trusts 
  • People working in hospices 
  • Theatre companies doing issue-based work 
  • People working within the criminal justice system 
  • Work with people with mental health needs 
  • Work with people with learning disabilities

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So where do the Arts Therapies fit in?  

Arts Therapies are one aspect of the arts and health sector – it is very important to understand the differences between the formal Arts Therapies and other types of arts and health work.

The Arts Therapies (Art, Dance & Movement, Music and Drama) are specific approaches to working with people, which combine arts and psychotherapy practice. This enables psychological healing through art making, creative expression and therapeutic relationship[s].

The Arts Therapies offer Art, Dance, Music or Drama as a psychological therapy. It is now illegal to offer Arts Therapies without appropriate training and registration with the Health professions Council (HPC). The HPC website  has an online register of all Art Psychotherapists, Music Therapists and Drama Therapists. Dance Movement Therapy will be joining HPC soon. Arts Therapists are dual trained, first in their art form and then as an art form specific psychotherapists.

Artists, who are not trained Arts Therapists, working on arts and health projects do not use the arts as a distinct therapy and engage people in the creative process for a wide variety of reasons (see What is Arts and Health?). The value of this work is ‘therapeutic’ in the broadest sense of the word as it often increases people’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and generally improves their mental health.

For artists and arts therapists (across all art forms) working in health settings, their experience as an artist is vital. Artists approach the work with their own creativity, and tend to look at the world quite differently from health professionals. Working with the arts gives people the opportunity to relate imaginatively to the world and their own place in it.

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How can I get funding for my work? Does Arts & Health South West provide funds?

Arts & Health South West does not provide project funding at present. 

There are a number of public and lottery funding streams, Trusts and Foundations that may be appropriate for your project. We do not keep permanent information about these on the site but have a regularly updated information section under Opportunities. If you are a member you can sign up for our Ebulletin and you will receive the latest information about funding sources and fundraising training.

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If you would like to support our work, you can donate here: Donate



Arts & Health South West is a FREE MEMBERSHIP ORGANISATION for everyone with an interest in arts and health. Members can network with each other and receive regular e-bulletins with the latest news, events and opportunities as well as be included in an on-line Directory. Help us spread the word!

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