POLYPHONYJournal of the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists

Pioneering Art Therapy in Northern Ireland: Rita Simon's Journey

Published on Jan 03, 2024 by Eileen McCourt

In this video, Eileen McCourt speaks about the journey of Rita Simon, who harbored a vision to establish a recognised professional art therapy training program in Northern Ireland.

The focus is on Rita's aspiration to create a professional training framework for art therapy. This reflected a significant step towards integrating creative arts therapies into more formal and recognised educational and professional settings.

The ensuing collaboration and co-creation between the British Association of Art Therapy, the Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy, and the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists is known as Border Crossings.

The video formed part of the Frontiers All Ireland Creative Arts Therapies/Arts Therapies Conference and Convocation, held on Saturday, October 14th, 2023 at Technological University Dublin. Eileen discusses the groundbreaking idea of hosting an International Conference with a crucial experiential component. This initiative is seen as setting a new precedent for future events in the field of creative arts therapies.

This video is particularly relevant for professionals and students in the field of creative arts therapies. It offers insights into the challenges and triumphs of establishing art therapy as a recognised discipline.

The Frontiers conference is co-produced by the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists, the British Association of Art Therapists, Crawford College of Art and Design at Munster Technological University and Belfast School of Art at Ulster University. It is also supported by the British Association of Dramatherapists, the British Association of Music Therapy and iCommunity Shared Practice Hub. This video was recorded by Siobhán Bereen, Course Coordinator, MA in Art Therapy, Munster Technological University.

Eileen McCourt

Eileens photo 4 April 18

Eileen McCourt trained as an Art Therapist at the University of Hertfordshire in 1987, seconded by The Probation Board for NI (PBNI) where she had worked since 1979 as a probation officer. She remained as an Art Therapist, working with offenders both in custody and in the community until her retirement from clinical practice in 2011. She was also Clinical Supervisor for MSc Art Therapy students on placement with PBNI from 2002 as well as Clinical Supervisor on the course.

She is President of the Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy (NIGAT) formed in 1976 by Rita Simon, one of the founding members of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) in 1964. Rita’s theoretical approach and her belief in an inherent creativity have been Eileen’s guiding principles in her professional practice.

She remains interested and involved in the development of Art Therapy services and is representative for the profession on the Allied Health Professions Federation NI.