As one might surmise by my above credentials, my answer to the question I've posited is "no." So let me address my reasons for this answer to facility CEO's and Directors

It has come to my attention that many facilities serving populations such as: adults with mental illness, the elderly, veterans, poly-substance abusers, formerly homeless adults, and many others have been 'hiring' volunteers to conduct art classes within their facilities. (I place the single quotes around 'hire' to address the question, is one really 'hired' if they're not being paid?) While this is a common practice, my 17 years of experience as an Art Therapist informs me that it is not an appropriate one, no matter how qualified the volunteer.

Let me begin by saying that I myself have been a volunteer. When I found myself between positions about six years ago I was a qualified, credentialed volunteer at a local VA center. I ran a number of Art Therapy groups that became popular and well attended. So what was the problem? As soon as I found a "real paying job" I had to leave. I still imagine all the residents' unfinished artworks, as well as the art making materials I ordered lying dormant on the shelves. All of the consistency and enjoyment my group offered the residents was gone in a moment's time. One can imagine that for people living in any form of institution, this could be clinically damaging. Of course I would have loved to have stayed there, and the Recreation Director would have loved to have kept me. But there was no paid position available at this facility at that time.

So what can happen when a less qualified volunteer is 'hired?' A common scenario might be that an art student is 'hired' during their summer break to run some art classes for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The volunteer is now placed in a therapy room with these individuals but without the benefit of being trained and supervised by an Art Therapist. Without reviewing the entire body of, "Theory and Practice of Art Therapy" it has been my experience that any time anyone engages in the artistic process for even a small amount of time, strong emotions can come into play. In the case of institutionalized populations these emotions may play themselves out in a number of ways: the individual(s) may begin to cry, or yell, or become angry and destructive (by trying to throw art materials, or destroy their own work and/or the works of others). In any of these cases the safety and security of the room and groups becomes compromised.

So how will the unqualified volunteer handle this situation? It is hard to say, because they have not been trained to do so. But if their reaction is an inappropriate one the ramifications can place both the volunteer and group's participants in peril. At its worst it may open up the facility to lawsuits.

My sincere advice to decision makers in facilities is to please not take the artistic process lightly. This process is not always joyful or easy. It brings up many reactions in its participants. Please hire (without the quotation marks) qualified Art Therapist to conduct these groups.