Robertson, Abigail

The art of facing the unknown: a recent graduate’s reflection on education within the arts therapies

Abigail Robertson

From the perspective of a newly qualified graduate, this panel will offer a recent and candid reflection of both training and pursuing art therapy as a career. The challenges of the first year following graduation are acknowledged. The author considers the importance of trust and her own experience of the unknown within training and the journey beyond qualifying.

This account uses the methodology of hermeneutic phenomenology to explore the themes of trust and the unknown. The paper draws on a variety of psychodynamic literature, including Yalom, Casement and Winnicott, clinical vignettes from practice placements and a reflective journal.

In considering the topic of the unknown, the paper presents the trainee’s responses as she tilts at her own windmills of uncertainty. The tension between the desire to know and understand on the one hand and the reality of the unknown within therapy on the other is acknowledged. Reflecting on the use of vocabulary, the paper highlights the limit of the English language with only one word for ‘to know’. The process of training brings to light the different forms of knowing: knowing an individual in a therapeutic relationship, knowledge of theory and knowledge of theory into practice.

Drawing on and critiquing the different components of her training in the UK, the author traces the cultivation of trust: trust in herself as a practitioner, the client, the support network and the process of therapy itself. Safety, self-awareness and affirmation are identified as factors contributing to trust, developed through key aspects of training – group learning, supervision, practice placement and personal therapy.



Abigail Robertson graduated with an MSc Art Psychotherapy from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, in 2018.  Having initially studied modern languages, Abigail has worked within education, teaching languages in the UK, France and Egypt.  Her recent work supporting adults in recovery from a drug or alcohol problem led her to pursuing training in therapeutic work.

Abigail’s training included placements with adults with learning disabilities and secondly children and young people affected by sexual trauma. On graduating she pursued a short-term placement in Germany shadowing an art therapist working with blind and visually impaired children.

As a graduate, Abigail is volunteering as a co-faciliatator of an art therapy group working with children affected by parental substance misuse and is excited to be pursuing other areas of therapeutic work drawing on her previous experience.