In this series, our director Ben chats with leaders in the culture and care sectors to discover more about their inspiration, work, and the future of arts in health. This week: Dr Val Huet.

Who are you, what do you do, and why do you do it?

I'm Dr Val Huet, Chief Executive Officer of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT).

I manage the professional body for UK art therapists as well as practise and research art therapy-based groups for work-related stress, develop and conduct training for art therapists and people interested in art therapy, and develop partnerships with other professionals involved in arts therapies and arts in health.

Even after many years in the field of art therapy (I qualified in 1986), I feel passionate about art therapy as I have seen how this approach has helped people to improve the quality of their lives, whatever issues they faced. It is usually very difficult to ‘find the words’ when feeling very distressed and art can really help communication.

Participants in a BAAT One Week Art Therapy Foundation Course

What has been the biggest change to arts and health since you began? How has your part of the sector developed since Adrian Hill and Edward Adamson pioneered art therapy in the 1940s?

There is now much more openness and collaboration between art therapists and arts in health, and a healthy move to challenge professional silos. Within contemporary art therapy, we have moved away from a closed culture based on a narrow interpretation of psychoanalysis and got back more towards the Hill and Adamson roots: BAAT has placed the art process firmly back at the forefront of practice and research.

cuts do have a big impact on staff morale and wellbeing

Can art therapy really compliment other arts and health interventions – such as what we do?

Yes, we bring different things and we need to look at these from the clients’ perspectives: they may sometimes benefit more from an art in health intervention, at other times, they may prefer to have art therapy. Many people feel deeply divorced from the world of art but when introduced to it, take to it and continue art-making in their own lives.

My own experience of partnering with Paintings in Hospitals was really positive and having both of us enhanced the participants’ experience.

At Paintings in Hospitals, we have just finalised our new 3-Year Plan. What's next for you?

We'll be continuing our research partnership with Paintings in Hospitals looking into art interventions for work-related stress. The level of work-related stress is definitely on the rise within health and social care and cuts do have a big impact on staff morale and wellbeing.

Val and Ben are both on Twitter: @ValHuet, @HighStreetBen