Art Therapist

Community and Health

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Art Therapists use creative techniques such as drawing, painting and sculpting, in their psychotherapy and counselling work with clients. While Art Therapists may work with individual clients, they often work  with groups in health settings or other specialist institutions to assist clients who may be experiencing problems with personal insight or self-expression. Future Growth Very Strong

Art therapists work with a client or a group of clients to help them address emotional and psychological issues through creative activities such as drawing, painting, sculpting and collage. Art therapists plan or conduct therapy sessions or programs to improve clients' physical, cognitive, or emotional well-being. Art therapists may use visual art-making, drama, or dance/movement as forms of psychotherapy.

ANZSCO ID: 272314

Alternative names: Art Psychotherapist, Arts Therapist, Drama Therapist, Music Therapist, Dance Movement Psychotherapist,


 Hands Painted
(Source: Art Therapy Blog)

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Art therapists work in any area where people require assistance with achieving a better quality of mental health. This includes psychiatric wards, prisons, rehabilitation centres, and drug and alcohol units.

The skills and attributes required:

  • interested in people and human behaviour

  • good problem-solving skills

  • an inquisitive mind

  • able to maintain confidentiality

  • patient and perceptive

  • good oral and written communication skills.

  • a non-judgmental attitude

  • the ability to relate to people from all backgrounds

  • a strong interest or background in psychology

  • creativity, intuition and imagination

At work
(Source: Careers in Psychology)

Duties and Tasks

Art therapists may perform some or all of the following tasks:

  • Conducting therapeutic interviews and provide psychotherapy and counselling

  • Building a relationship with clients to help support them in understanding their past or present behaviours and emotions

  • Developing programmes that incorporate the use of painting, sculpting, printing and/or drawing to address a patient's needs and concerns in a safe, nurturing environment

  • Maintain the necessary records in relation to a patients progress; provide consultation and information about patient progress

  • Assess and evaluate the effectiveness of the artistic and therapeutic interactions with the group or an individual.

  • Help clients gain greater awareness of their feelings

  • Help them to express themselves

  • Help them work through their emotions

  • Get them come to terms with difficult times in their lives

  • Get them to move on in a positive way.

  •  Provide assessments to identify the source of problems and determine appropriate treatment

  •  Provide follow-up services to groups and individuals for support and evaluation purposes

  •  Assess individuals and groups in order to identify their abilities and needs  

You would not teach art, drama or movement and your clients would not need any of these skills.

You could hold group or one-to-one sessions with your clients. These could include children or adults who:

  • have learning disabilities

  • have emotional, behavioural or mental health problems

  • have speech and language difficulties

  • are recovering from addiction, injury or illness.


Working conditions

Art Therapists are employed in public and private hospitals, non-government organisations and in community based organisations such as welfare centres, aged-care facilities, psychiatric wards, prisons, rehabilitation centres, drugs and alcohol units and schools. Part-time and freelance (self-employed) work is common. They are also employed in private practice and in private health clinics.

Depending upon the setting, Art Therapists will often work closely with other professionals including doctors, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists.

Art Therapists provide services to a full range of clients who require assistance in achieving a better quality of mental health, including children and adults, with emotional and physical impairments. 

Education and training/entrance requirements

Australian Creative Arts Therapies Association [ACATA] recognises a number of diverse disciplines within the arts therapies. These disciplines currently include, Art Therapy, Creative Arts Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, Dramatherapy, Dance Therapy, Dance and Movement Therapy, Music Therapy, Transpersonal Arts Therapy and Psychodrama.

Art therapy is a mental health profession, first and foremost. The practice of art therapy requires an educational background in human development, psychological and behavioral disorders, counseling theories, and therapeutic techniques.

This training comprises a minimum two year masters degree with a component of 750 supervised clinical hours placement in the mental health arena. Graduates of these programmes are eligible for Professional Registration with ANZATA.

Before undertaking clinical placements required by courses, you must obtain a National Police Certificate and a Provide First Aid Certificate. Depending on the State in which you are employed, you may be required to undergo additional employment screening assessments through the relevant State Government department. If you are working with children, you would be required to complete the equivalent of a Working with Children check or disability services employment screening.

Employment Opportunities

Employment of art therapists is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Therapy is a growing area generally, and this growth will provide opportunities for therapists of all types, including art therapists.

Did You Know?

Art therapy has been in use for over 70 years to help treat patients, and was used because it is an easier therapeutic action than talking. One of the creators, British artist Adrian Hill, was suffering from tuberculosis when he realised that painting made him feel better and helped him forget he was sick. At the same time, Margaret Naumberg was finding out the benefits of art therapy and founded the American Art Therapy Association.

The aim of art therapy isn't for the patient to become an artist; it's for people to learn how to express themselves in something that doesn't require any words.

Art therapy isn't just painting or drawing, it covers a variety of the arts such as dance, music, writing and acting! Many art therapists can also use knitting, embroidery and model building in their therapy sessions as well.

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