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Art therapist

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

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £26,600 to £48,500 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need:

BAAT has more information about becoming an arts therapist.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent communication, listening and observational skills
  • creativity, intuition and imagination
  • the ability to handle sensitive and difficult issues
  • emotional strength and the ability to cope with challenging situations
  • empathy and the ability to gain clients’ trust

3. What you'll do

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.

4. Salary

Starter: £26,600 to £35,600

Experienced: £31,700 o £41,800

Highly Experienced: up to £48,500 (principal art therapist in the NHS)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

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.

6. Career path and progression

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.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018