- Use art to help people overcome emotional and mental health problems
- Option to become self-employed and start your own practice
- Requires excellent communication skills and the ability to handle sensitive and difficult issues
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. 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, and move on in a positive way.
- Hold group or one-to-one sessions with your clients, who could have learning disabilities; emotional, behavioural/mental health problems; speech & language difficulties; an injury/illness; or addiction issues.
- Work closely with other healthcare professionals, like psychologists; nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, and psychiatrists.
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
You may work in a hospital or other medical facility, and you are likely to work with multiple clients each day in a room equipped with art materials, or you may travel to your clients bringing materials with you.
Working hours within the NHS are mainly 9am to 5pm. If you work in private practice, your hours may be more varied to fit around your clients and can involve some weekends and evenings. Opportunities may exist for part-time and portfolio working.
You'll need to combine knowledge of art and its techniques with psychology and counselling skills. This role would suit someone who is caring, creative and patient with others.
To get started you could try an introductory or foundation course in art therapy to give you an idea of what the work is like. It is highly recommended to get voluntary experience in community arts projects, youth work, or with people with disabilities or mental health issues. You could contact the voluntary services co-ordinator at your local NHS trust for information on volunteer opportunities.
To become a qualified art therapist you'll need to complete a degree and then a postgraduate qualification approved by the Health and Care Professions Council.
You will normally need to have an undergraduate degree in art or significant art experience to get onto the postgraduate course, along with demonstrable experience of working in a relevant healthcare setting.
Full-time postgraduate courses normally take 2 years to complete. Part-time courses take 3 years.
A level 7 Degree Apprenticeship for arts therapists, including art therapists/art psychotherapists, dramatherapists and music therapists is available but opportunities are currently limited.
You'll also need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and to have clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
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.
Some art therapists divide their working time between the NHS, private practice and teaching, and many combine art therapy with other types of related work.