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Art therapist

Art therapy

What is art therapy/art psychotherapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication.

Used in a therapeutic context, art is used as a medium to identify and address psychological, emotional and well-being issues which may be confusing and distressing.

Is art therapy the right career for me?

A career in art therapy offers an opportunity to be professionally connected with art and a psychological therapy. It also makes work meaningful: art therapy helps to make a positive difference in the life of many people who find verbal communication difficult or struggle to put their thoughts and feelings into words. 

Art therapists need to be flexible and resourceful. Within the current health and social care context, entrepreneurial skills are also needed. Many art therapists start their career on a self-employed basis and set up art therapy provisions in a wide variety of settings.  

What do art therapists do?

Art therapists help people to achieve positive changes in their lives. They work therapeutically with people of all ages, at all life stages, and from all walks of life. Clients may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses. These include emotional, behavioural, psychological or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, short or long-term physical conditions and life-limiting conditions. 

Art therapy can be provided in groups or individually, depending on clients' needs. It is important to recognise that these sessions are not a recreational activity or an art lesson, although the sessions can be enjoyable. Clients do not need to have any previous experience or expertise in art. 

Where do art therapists work?

Art therapists in the UK work in a variety of settings: NHS, social services, primary, secondary, further and special education, charities, prisons, private practice, etc. In the NHS, art therapists work in children and young people mental health services, adult services (including inpatient and community mental health care), specialist settings (forensics, eating disorders, palliative care) and in partnership with other organisations in arts in health and wellbeing (AiHWB) projects. 

What hours do art therapists work?

This varies according to the practice setting.

How much do art therapists earn?

The basic starting salary is a Band 6 or 7 within the NHS; please see our Pay and Benefits section for more information.

How do I become an art therapist?

Do I need a degree? Yes, to work as an art therapist or art psychotherapist (both titles are protected by law and inter-changeable), it is mandatory to have completed an art therapy masters training programme validated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Where can I train in Wales? University of South Wales: MA Art Psychotherapy.
Is there funding available? No. Dependent on students’ personal circumstances, only a small number of bursaries are available. For further information about available funding and eligibility please visit the University’s site.
Are there postgraduate opportunities? Further opportunities exist in research degree study (PhD, MPhil and MRes), consultative supervision training and other post-qualifying specialist courses.
How do I get experience? To find out about work experience and volunteering opportunities in NHS Wales visit our Work section. For other forms of opportunities please visit British Association of Art Therapists Career and Training page.
How do I apply for a job? All vacancies for NHS Wales are advertised on NHS Jobs. Visit our Work section for more information.

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