Course Features

  • Provides students with a two-year training in the clinical practice of Child Art Psychotherapy
  • Students attain their clinical experience in 18 month one-day-a-week clinical placements on HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) teams responding to mental disorder and illness in children
  • Provides an excellent grounding in child mental health
  • Developed for professionals who wish to specialise in using art materials and images in a psychotherapeutic context – helping children and adolescents to communicate their distress through the use of art

Course Overview

Child Art Psychotherapy is a therapy for children with mental health difficulties, where the child is supported to focus on areas causing distress in his/her life through the medium of art. The child is provided with the space and time to create images, and the child is supported to discuss his/her images with the therapist. It is considered a method to access and process trauma and possibly to access the unconscious. The image is used as a means of communication between the child and therapist, which some children find less stressful than attending verbal therapies.

This is a child–oriented therapy, with each child progressing at his/her own rate, with the endpoint of therapy agreed jointly with the child and therapist. Child Art Psychotherapy is internationally accepted as a method to treat children who have mental health difficulties, with child art psychotherapists frequently employed in Child and Adolescent Mental Health inpatient and outpatient settings in the UK. Art psychotherapy is used in the UK in school settings with those with behaviour difficulties. Child Art Psychotherapy is specifically recommended in the UK for use in those recovering from first episode psychosis and is sometimes used with those recovering from eating disorders.

This two-year, part-time taught masters programme, delivered at the UCD School of Medicine, Nelson Street, Dublin 7 is for professionals who wish to specialise in using images in a psychotherapeutic context to understand the inner world of the child. 

A specific method of Child Art Psychotherapy which was developed for use in Child and Adolescent Mental Health teams is taught, known as the Vasarhelyi method of Child Art Psychotherapy. For further information about this method and about the theoretical background of the Vasarhelyi method please read some of the following papers:

This two-year, part-time taught masters programme is delivered by UCD School of Medicine, Nelson Street, Dublin 7. It is for professionals who wish to specialise in using images in a psychotherapeutic context to engage the inner world of the child. 

This course is suited to:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Psychotherapists
  • Counsellors
  • Nurses
  • Teachers

Those who are working with traumatised children or with “looked after” children may find this course useful. It may also be useful to those who are working with children with long-term physical illnesses.

Graduates have been offered sessions within clinical and educational settings and there are a limited range of career opportunities within private practice. Past graduates have found work in voluntary and statutory organisations and also within the private sector. Some graduates are working in School completion programmes


This two year, part-time postgraduate course is offered every two years. It is for professionals already in possession of a third level degree or equivalent who wish to specialise in using images in a psychotherapeutic context to understand the inner world of the child. Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Psychotherapists, Counsellors, Child Care Workers, Teachers and Nurses are among those who find the course useful. Specific training in the visual arts is not a prerequisite. 

The course is designed to provide an understanding of the theory and practice of Child Art Psychotherapy. It provides alternative therapeutic skills to enhance clinical practice when verbal methods are not adequately meeting the client’s needs.  

Please note: The MSc Child Art Psychotherapy runs through the Summer of Year 1 and Year 2. Although there are no lectures during the Summer months, students are expected to attend their clinical placement, supervision and write their thesis (Year 2).

Academic Teaching

There are 6 modules in each year. Teaching comprises lectures, seminars, training in Child Art Psychotherapy and group supervision sessions which are delivered each Friday of term time between 10.30am and 5.45pm. Students also attend fortnightly 1:1 supervision. There are 3 Semesters each year. Semester 1 and Semester 2 are taught Semesters. Assignments are carried out during Semester 3. Semester 1 is 15 weeks duration and Semester 2 is of 15 weeks duration with a break for the Easter holidays.

Group Process

Students participate in group process every Friday from 4.15pm to 5.45pm for the duration of the course during term time. Students reflect on their own therapeutic processes. 

Clinical Placement

Students are placed for one full day per week on a Child and Adolescent Mental Health team, usually a community team. The clinical placement commences at the end of Semester 1 Year 1 and continues through to the end of the course. The clinical placement is usually arranged by the course coordinator and clinical placement supervisors who are situated within a variety of child and adolescent mental health multidisciplinary settings throughout Ireland. Fortnightly case management supervision in the clinical setting is provided by senior members of the professional CAMHS teams, and is provided in the CAMHS setting. 

Individual Supervision 

Method specific supervision of child art psychotherapy practice is a focal point of the course and is provided by Child Art Psychotherapy course supervisors, and is provided in the teaching centre. 

Independent Study

Trainees are required to allow a considerable amount of extra hours throughout the course for independent study e.g. reading of relevant literature, preparation of supervision material, preparation for case presentations, essay on clinical case studies, thesis dissertation, the research protocol assignment and written and oral examinations.

Personal Psychotherapy 

The course also requires that trainees engage psychotherapy for the duration of the course ie 100 hours of personal psychotherapy.


Theory and Practice of Child Art Psychotherapy 1 & 2

These modules are delivered through a series of lectures, seminars and case presentations over Year 1 and Semester 1 of Year 2 of the course. They are taught throughout the course in conjunction with the Module on Child Art Psychotherapy Training, Supervision and Experiential/Reflective Group Work in a way that the trainees simultaneously acquire the theoretical knowledge and skills necessary for the competent professional practice of child art psychotherapy. Both modules are closely linked with the clinical placement.

At the end of Semester 1 Year 2 students are required to write a Clinical Case Studies essay. This essay of 3,000 words assesses trainees’ clinical competence, using clinical vignettes and ability to critically reflect on their own therapeutic interventions. This essay also demonstrates the trainee’s ability to work independently as a professional practitioner.

Criteria for marking include: 

  • Clarity of structure, style and description of clinical material.
  • Understanding of the therapeutic relationship between therapist, client and the pictorial image.
  • Awareness of the role of the therapist within the multidisciplinary team.
  • Critical reflection on the therapeutic method applied in working with the client.
  • The total workload for each of these modules amounts to120 hours. Hours for independent study, reading of recommended literature and revision are calculated as approximately 80 hours. 

Child Art Psychotherapy Training and Experiential /Reflective Group Work 1 & 2

These modules are taught throughout the course and comprise child art psychotherapy training sessions, individual and group supervision of clinical practice and experiential /reflective group work. The development and understanding of the trainee’s own pictorial language is facilitated during the sessions and the visual images produced are used in an experiential/teaching context. Opportunities are provided for trainees to experience and reflect on the roles of both client and therapist. 

Group attendance hours amount to 80 hours over the two years. It is calculated that trainees will spend approximately 120 hours between preparation for sessions, independent study and revision.  (Total student effort is 200 hours approximately).

Research Module

The Research module comprises formal teaching of 12 hours and subsequent submission of a research protocol of 3,000 – 5,000 words. This module is delivered in semester 1 & 2 of year 1.

The format of the Research Protocol is:

  • Review of relevant literature and aims of study.
  • Hypothesis
  • Proposed method, including procedure, measures, sample selection
  • Proposed analysis of results

Students are asked to write a research protocol which is of a similar format to a grant application. The research is not carried out during the time of the course but the necessary training is provided for the trainee to participate in future research projects.

Following independent study and revision hours the first draft of the Research Protocol is designed and submitted in the spring semester of Year 1. Feedback is given to the trainee following which a second draft is also submitted in the spring semester of Year 1. The final submission is in the summer semester of Year 1.

Student effort hours for this module can be expected to vary significantly among trainees due to independent study and work on the actual protocol. (Total student effort is 220 hours approximately). 

Development of the Theory of Pictorial Thinking and Contributions of 20th Century Artists

This module is delivered in a semester 1 year 2. This module covers the thinking whereby artists use images to express and understand their inner world in pictorial form. It includes a series of lectures on the contributions to pictorial thinking by 20th century artists and examines the interaction between art and psychoanalysis.

Formal lecture hours total 25. Expected independent study, reading and revision is a further 75 hours. (Total student effort 100 hours).

Clinical Placement in a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Setting 1 & 2

The clinical placement is arranged by the course co-ordinator in liaison with the students and the clinical placement supervisors. The placements are situated within a variety of child mental health multidisciplinary settings throughout Ireland. The placement is for one full day per week. It commences in the spring semester of Year 1 and continues through to the end of the course in December Year 2. (Total student effort is 350 hours). 

The clinical placement provides the opportunity for the trainee to acquire clinical skills in the application of child art psychotherapy within a multidisciplinary team setting. The trainee learns to develop skills in observation, assessment, engaging in, maintaining and terminating the therapeutic process. Careful planning takes place with the placement supervisor in choosing suitable clients for the trainee. Prior to starting his/her own clinical work the trainee observes clinical sessions of the team members to become familiar with the variety of approaches practised in child and adolescent mental health services.

The clinical placement also provides an understanding of the importance of organisational issues and professional responsibilities such as boundaries, confidentiality, appropriate ways of clinical note taking, report writing and sharing relevant information about the progress of the therapeutic process with the placement team and the child’s parents.



It is a course requirement that each trainee should work under supervision with at least three long cases during the period of the placement. Trainees take on further cases for child art psychotherapy assessment and shorter treatment periods. The opportunity to co-work with team members is a further requirement. Transparency is required in all communications regarding trainee status.

The assessment of the trainee’s performance in the clinical placement of the course is based on criteria developed from the above aims and objectives.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health: Theory and Practice 

The lectures for this module are delivered in semesters 1 and 2 of year 1 of the course by multidisciplinary senior professionals. The series of lectures cover:

  • The psychology of the human life cycle from a number of developmental perspectives.
  • The nature and aetiology of emotional, behavioural and developmental disorders in children and adolescents.
  • Neuroplasticity

The lectures in this module total 90 hours. Independent study, revision, reading assignments and preparation for the two two-hour written examinations are calculated as approximately 150 hours. (Total student effort is 240 hours approximately).

Theory and Practice of Psychotherapeutic Models 1 and 2

These modules are taught throughout the course. They provide an introduction to psychotherapeutic theoretical models and clinical practice. The modules include lectures on the history and development of the principles of psychoanalytic thinking and the similarities as well as the differences between verbal and non-verbal models of psychotherapy are explored. 

Assessment will be in the form of a written exam at the end of Year 1 and a project at the end of Year 2. Lectures amount to 50 hours and extra student effort is calculated to be 150 hours. (Total student effort is 200 hours). 


The thesis dissertation embraces a broader perspective of child art psychotherapy than the clinical case study. It is distinguished from the case study by the selection of a topic which is researched, studied and presented in the light of varying clinical and theoretical models drawn from psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy and other allied disciplines. The study is intended to enhance the trainee’s understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of child art psychotherapy and its application. 

A proposal of 1,500 words is submitted for approval in the summer semester of Year 1. A long draft of 8,000 – 10,000 words is submitted in the autumn semester of Year 2. The work for both drafts is supervised by course staff. The final thesis dissertation is submitted in the summer semester of Year 2. This is forwarded to the External Examiners for marking. 

Criteria for marking include:

  • Clarity of structure and formulation of the main theme.
  • Appropriate use of clinical material to illustrate theoretical assumptions.
  • Ability to compare ideas of others with own hypothesis.
  • Ability to devise clinically useful conclusions based on theory and practice.

Hours of student effort for this module can be expected to vary significantly among trainees due to the complexity of the thesis dissertation and also the time involved in the preparation, typing and presentation of the 2 drafts and the final submission. (Total student effort is 300 hours approximately).

Personal psychotherapy is compulsory.

The course has been delivered at the UCD School of Medicine, Catherine McAuley Education and Research Centre, Nelson Street, Dublin 7.

Eligibility criteria

  • A third level degree or equivalent is required.
  • Experience of working with children and adolescents within mental health or educational settings is an advantage.
  • Applicants are short-listed on the basis of their previous professional experience and the short-listed candidates are interviewed to assess their suitability.
  • Successful applicants will be required to consent to garda clearance being sought which is standard procedure for professionals engaged in direct work with young people.

International applicants should contact the Academic Programme Director for a full list of entry requirements.

For more information on course fees please visit the Fees & Grants Office website and search under “Course/Programme Fees (EU)”

Application for this course must be made on-line at

Programme DirectorProgramme Administtrator

Professor Aisling Mulligan

UCD School of Medicine

UCD Catherine McAuley Education & Research Centre

Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

Nelson Street, Dublin 7

Geraldine Byrne

UCD School of Medicine

UCD Catherine McAuley Education & Research Centre

Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

Nelson Street, Dublin 7



T: 01 803 2881

Key Information:

  • Major Code X348
  • Duration 24 Months
  • Schedule Part-Time
  • Next Intake Sep 2023

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