Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its main mode of expression and communication. Art therapists/art psychotherapists use art as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing.
Training and qualifications required
To practise as an art therapist/art psychotherapist, you must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). To register with the HCPC, you need to have taken an approved Masters degree in art therapy or art psychotherapy. You may be accepted onto a course without an art degree, if you have a strong art background. A level 7 apprenticeship for arts therapists (art therapists/art psychotherapists, dramatherapists and music therapists) has also been approved for delivery.
Expected working hours and salary range
Most art therapists in the NHS work part-time hours, pro-rata of a standard 37.5 hour week. Entry-level art therapy posts typically start at band 6 of the agenda for change pay rates. Band 7 posts now include not only delivery of clinical work but also supervision and evaluation. These may be open to newly qualified art therapists with suitable pre-training experience. Art Therapists employed at Band 8 level are expected to work as clinicians, supervise art therapists and other staff members, as well as contribute to research, evaluation and strategic service development. Art therapists may work some evenings, elsewhere, the working hours will depend on where they work. In education, for example, they may work school hours and prison work may involve early starts. Self-employed art therapists’ hours of work depend on client needs. They may work evenings and weekends to suit private clients. Some art therapists have to travel between client appointments.
Desirable skills and values
You'll need a range of skills including excellent communication skills, being able to work with people from all walks of life, being to reflect on their own emotions, creativity and being flexible
You could specialise in a particular type of client such as children, the elderly or offenders. Or you could become a specialist in a particular issue such as dementia, mental health or palliative care. As an experienced practitioner, you could become a senior or consultant art therapist, managing the work of a team of therapists. You could become the head of an arts therapy department, coordinating the work of therapists from other disciplines such as music or dramatherapists.