We envisage the arts therapies as vibrant, growing, evidence-based and relevant professions in a South African context.
To strengthen and develop the arts therapies through the
facilitation of collaborative advocacy, lobbying, research
and training; the provision of support, information, professional
development and networking opportunities for members. the
development of mutually beneficial relationships with
international and local bodies.
- To contribute towards the creation of an enabling regulatory and operational environment for arts therapies.
- To build and develop a responsive learning Association that provides quality services to its members.
- To remain informed about professional requirements of practice and other legal and statutory regulations.
- To maintain a high standard of excellent and ethical practice of and training in the arts therapies in South Africa.
- To constantly strive towards making the arts therapies relevant in the political, economic and social context of South Africa and Africa.To strengthen the professional voice of the arts therapies at the HPCSA and with other professional bodies in South Africa.
- To build a strong, inclusive,connected and collaborative community of arts therapists across the country.
- To explore avenues of growth and development for the arts therapies that result in greater job opportunities for its members.
- To stimulate, coordinate and oversee a collaborative research agenda that results in an increase in relevant engaged research for quality publications reflecting the experiences of arts therapies practitioners, clients and communities in South Africa.
- To build and maintain strong international relationships to keep the voice of South Africa arts therapies alive in the global space.
While the continent of Africa has a rich history of using the arts as healing practices, the formal professions of the arts therapies are relatively new in South Africa. Pioneers in the field returned from training at overseas universities with visions of bringing clinical skills and experiences back to a South Africa in much need of healing.
The work of the early arts therapists was to educate the public and the health professions about the arts therapies and to seek recognition for the profession as a legitimate and evidenced based form of therapeutic practice. Due to their efforts, the arts therapies achieved recognition at the Health Professions Council of South Africa, which enabled arts therapists to formally register as health professionals.
In the early 2000’s it was agreed to organise the small group of arts therapists into a network and SANATO (South African Network for Arts Therapies Organisation) was formed. There were many challenges and after some time, the network dissolved.
In May 2009 an art therapist, dramatherapist and music therapist got together to think about how to rebuild the arts therapy community and they organised a national Arts Therapies Symposium entitled ‘Tapping the Field’ at the University of Pretoria. This Symposium coincided with the celebrations of 10 years of Music Therapy training at the University of Pretoria. The Symposium attracted participants from Cape Town and there was a renewed interest in coming together and building a community moving forward.
This was followed by the 2010 conference at Drama for Life at WITS entitled “Building Bridges: The Arts Therapies in Africa“. Again arts therapists were given a platform to talk about their work and were re-inspired to work together to build a collective voice.
Finally at the end of 2012 a national committee was set up with representatives from each of the four professions to start to address the issues affecting the professions – scope of practice, public sector posts, codes and tariffs and code of ethics. This small committee met about 4-5 times a year, and slowly developed greater capacity for understanding and collaboration.
However, this was an unelected committee with no formal structure, no constitutions, and no formal mandate. It was increasingly unable to play the role required of a professional body such as voicing the concerns and needs which pertain to the HPCSA Board’s mandate and the professions as well as holding a position for the arts therapies at stakeholder meetings with the HPCSA Board. All issues such as advocacy within the mental health sector, professional identity matters including fees, guidance of foreign qualified practitioners, potential students and so forth were lying with SANATO. It was imperative that the small SANATO committee motivate for and lead the establishment of a National Professional body for arts therapists.
Music Therapists and Dramatherapists each had their own associations SAMTA (South African Music Therapy Association) and SAAD (South African Association of Dramatherapists) respectively. SAAD and SAMTA accepted that there would still be a need to organise around issues specific to that modality while common issues will be dealt with collectively. It was agreed that SAAD and SAMTA may be reimagined or disbanded and that they would have their own internal processes that would enable their members to prepare themselves for the new organisational platform.
Finally, in 2017, after a national consultative meeting, the intention to establish a national professional association was announced. After 2 years of consultation and hard work, the new Association was launched in May 2019 in Johannesburg. It was agreed to change the name to The South African National Arts Therapies Association – SANATA.