Art Therapist

Job Description:

Art therapists help people express difficult thoughts and feelings through creative activities.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

You might work with clients who have:

  • learning disabilities
  • emotional, behaviour or mental health problems
  • speech and language difficulties
  • an injury or illness or are recovering from an addiction

You’ll help clients:

  • 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’ll need:

  • knowledge of psychology
  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • customer service skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure (leadership skills)
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become an Art Therapist, there are no specific GCSE subjects that are mandatory. However, certain subjects and skills developed during your GCSE years can be advantageous for pursuing further education and a career in art therapy. Art Therapists use art as a means of communication and healing in therapeutic settings, so a strong foundation in art, psychology, and communication skills is beneficial. Here are some GCSE subjects and skills that can be valuable:

  1. Art and Design: Courses in art and design can help you develop strong artistic skills, creativity, and a foundation in various art mediums. These skills are fundamental for practicing art therapy.
  2. Psychology: Psychology is a key component of art therapy, as it involves understanding and addressing the emotional and psychological needs of clients. Taking GCSE Psychology can provide a basic understanding of psychological principles.
  3. Biology: While not directly related to art therapy, biology courses can help you develop an understanding of the human body and brain, which is relevant when working with clients’ mental and emotional well-being.
  4. English: Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential for documenting client progress, writing reports, and communicating effectively with clients and other healthcare professionals.
  5. Sociology: Sociology courses can provide insights into social and cultural factors that may impact clients’ mental health and well-being.
  6. Art History: A basic knowledge of art history can be beneficial for understanding different artistic movements and styles, which can inform your work as an Art Therapist.

Post School

You can get into this job through a university course or an apprenticeship.


You’ll need to complete a postgraduate qualification. Full time postgraduate courses normally take 2 years to complete. Part time courses take 3 years.

You should have a degree in art or creative therapies to do a postgraduate course.

You may be able to apply if you’ve got a degree in a related subject, for example psychology, nursing or social work.


You may be able to do an arts therapist degree apprenticeship.

You’ll usually need a qualification or experience in art, drama or music to apply.


To get a job as an art therapist, you’ll need paid or volunteering experience with:

  • community arts projects
  • youth work
  • people with disabilities or mental health issues

You could contact the voluntary services co-ordinator at your local public hospital trust for further advice.

Career tips

You could try an introduction or foundation course in art therapy to give you an idea of what the work is like.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 37-39 hours of work. You could be required to work freelance/be self-employed managing your own hours.

You could work in a prison, in a public or private hospital or at a school. Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you could become self employed and create your own business.

You could also:

  • become a senior art therapist
  • manage a team of therapists
  • manage an arts therapy unit
  • move into teaching