Arts & crafts

Art therapist

Art therapists help people express difficult thoughts and feelings through creative activities.

Annual Salary

£26,000 to £48,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

37.5

5%
Future employment

There will be 5% more Art therapist jobs in 2023.
In your local area

What's it all about?

You’ll encourage clients to experiment with art techniques and materials like paint, paper and clay.
 
You won’t teach art and your clients won’t need any artistic skills. Instead you’ll help them to:

  • gain greater awareness of their feelings
  • express themselves
  • work through their emotions
  • come to terms with difficult times in their lives
  • move on in a positive way

You may hold group or one-to-one sessions with your clients who have:

  • learning disabilities
  • emotional, behaviour or mental health problems
  • speech and language difficulties
  • an injury or illness, or are recovering from an addiction

You’ll also work closely with other healthcare professionals, like psychologists, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and psychiatrists.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship

University

You'll need to complete a postgraduate qualification approved by the Health and Care Professions Council.

Full-time postgraduate courses normally take 2 years to complete. Part-time courses take 3 years.

You should have a degree in art or creative therapies to do a postgraduate course.

You may be able to apply if you've got a degree in a related subject, for example psychology, nursing or social work.

You'll usually need:

  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

Apprenticeship

You may be able to do an arts therapist degree apprenticeship.

You'll usually need a qualification and experience in art, drama or music to apply.

To do this apprenticeship, you'll need:

  • a degree in a relevant subject for a degree apprenticeship

Volunteering and experience

You'll need paid or voluntary experience in community arts projects or youth work, or experience of working with people with disabilities or mental health issues.

You could contact the voluntary services co-ordinator at your local NHS trust for further advice. Do It also has more information on voluntary opportunities.

Further Information

You could try an introductory or foundation course in art therapy to give you an idea of what the work is like.

You can join the British Association of Art Therapists for access to professional development and networking opportunities.

You'll find more details about this career, courses and training through the British Association of Art Therapists and Health Careers.

£26,000 to £48,000

Starter salary: £26,000

Experienced salary: £31,000 to £41,000

These figures are a guide.

37.5

You’ll usually work between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, although some jobs may involve evening or weekend sessions. Part-time and freelance (self-employed) work is common.

You may work in schools, hospitals, prisons or day centres.



You may need to travel between different locations during your working day.

With experience, you could become self-employed and build up your own practice. 

You could also become a senior arts therapist and manage a team of therapists, manage an arts therapy unit, or move into teaching.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • customer service skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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