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Art therapist

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

Annual Salary

£32,305 to £45,838

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 39 variable

You could work: freelance / self-employed; managing your own hours

Future employment

There will be 5.7% more Art therapist jobs in 2026.

Day to day tasks

On a day-to-day basis, you may work with 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 help clients 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

Working environment

You could work in a prison, in an NHS or private hospital or at a school.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship

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.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information

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

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

Entry requirements

To do this apprenticeship, you'll need:

  • a degree in a relevant subject for a degree apprenticeship
For more information
Volunteering and work 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.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

More information

Career tips

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

Professional and industry bodies

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

Further information

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

You can also find out more about working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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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
  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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