Job description

Art therapists work to enhance an individual’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing through various artistic or recreational activities. They help and support individuals with disabilities, injuries or illnesses by applying positive treatment programmes. Art therapists encourage artistic self-expression in a number of sessions to help patients overcome problems, develop interpersonal skills and reduce stress.


    • Observe patients’ needs and medical records
    • Plan, apply and encourage appropriate treatment activities for patients
    • Guide patients during the creative process
    • Discuss and brainstorm with patients’ parents and other healthcare professionals
    • Arrange and implement intervention programmes
    • Help patients develop social and communication skills
    • Promote ways to beat stress, anxiety or depression
    • Ensure a safe and secure environment
    • Keep a record and report on patients’ progress

Skills and qualities

Active listening
Critical thinking
Social perceptiveness
Time management
Fine arts

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2016 to 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 7%.


New jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2016 and 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.


Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.


Career progression

You can focus working with a particular community, such as children with learning difficulties or adults battling substance abuse. With enough experience and the right qualifications, you can move up into a management role, leading a team of art therapists, or you could open your own private practice.

You can move into different recreational therapy areas, such as drama or sports, if you possess a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy.

Working conditions

Average hours

40h/ week

Typical schedule

Full Time

Some evenings and weekends

Art therapists either have their own private practice or work as part of a healthcare team in hospitals and clinics, mental health organisations, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, schools, colleges or correctional facilities.

Some therapists use offices for planning and administrative duties, but most of their working day is spent in a clinical setting. They work in an environment surrounded by arts and crafts such as paint, clay, fabric and wood.

Art therapists will travel to meet with patients and sometimes take them to other communities or recreation centres. They meet different kinds of people and must be able to deal with individuals with difficult emotional issues.


Bottom 10%




Top 10%


Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level


Bachelor’s degree in art therapy

Study time

4 years

To become an art therapist, you should at least hold a bachelor’s degree in art therapy or a similar field. However, most organisations will prefer a candidate with a relevant master’s degree.

You will also need to obtain certification from the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) through a computer-based exam.

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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