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Career as an Art Therapist


Art therapists use art to help patients cope with emotional and mental health problems and allow them to express emotions and feelings.

Art therapy aims to help patients overcome emotional, mental and behavioural difficulties by engaging with, and expressing themselves through, the artistic process.

Practitioners work with a wide range of patients who are affected by a variety of problems, including clinical or bipolar depression, phobias, anxiety and behavioural disorders.

The therapy aims to channel patients’ energies into painting, sculpture and other forms of expression (including theatre and dance) and help them to understand and address their inner conflicts.

Art therapists play an active part in the sessions, guiding patients through the creative process and encouraging them to engage with their feelings and explore the thought processes behind them.


The works of art that are produced can have an enlightening or cathartic effect for the patient and help them address emotional issues. Typical activities in the role include:

Talk with clients during art or other therapy sessions to build rapport, acknowledge their progress, or reflect upon their reactions to the artistic process.

Conduct art therapy sessions, providing guided self-expression experiences to help clients recover from, or cope with, cognitive, emotional, or physical impairments.

Design art therapy sessions or programs to meet client's goals or objectives.

Write treatment plans, case summaries, or progress or other reports related to individual clients or client groups.

Observe and document client reactions, progress, or other outcomes related to art therapy.

Establish goals or objectives for art therapy sessions in consultation with clients or site administrators.

Gather client information from sources such as case documentation, client observation, or interviews of client or family members.

Develop individualized treatment plans that incorporate studio art therapy, counseling, or psychotherapy techniques.

Assess client needs or disorders, using drawing, painting, sculpting, or other artistic processes.

Communicate client assessment findings and recommendations in oral, written, audio, video, or other forms.

Analyze or synthesize client data to draw conclusions or make recommendations for art therapy.

Customize art therapy programs for specific client populations, such as those in schools, nursing homes, wellness centers, prisons, shelters, or hospitals.

Select or prepare artistic media or related equipment or devices to accomplish therapy session objectives.

Confer with other professionals on the client's treatment team to develop, coordinate, or integrate treatment plans.

Recommend or purchase needed art supplies or equipment.

Interpret the artistic creations of clients to assess their functioning, needs, or progress.

Supervise staff, volunteers, practicum students, or interns.

Analyze data to determine the effectiveness of treatments or therapy approaches.

Review research or literature in art therapy, psychology, or related disciplines.

Teach art therapy techniques or processes to artists, interns, volunteers, or others.

Instruct individuals or groups in the use of art media, such as paint, clay, or yarn.

Conduct information sharing sessions, such as in-service workshops for other professionals, potential client groups, or the general community.



Painting can involve a free form approach of creating images from a blank canvas or it can involve using tools to help construct and manipulate images. Painting in art therapy involves acrylic paints, watercolours, spray painting and more. Paint supplies and techniques are typically familiar to most clients, however, there may be a perception that talent is required to participate in painting. Painting supplies are more fluid and less controllable than drawing supplies. This should be taken into account if your client is experiencing issues with control and perfectionism.

Drawing Drawing techniques in art therapy involve the client using an item for simple mark marking. Supplies include pencils, pens, pastels, charcoal, crayons and usually involve working on paper-based substrates. Most clients are familiar with drawing supplies and this means the client can successfully use the supplies with little instruction or frustration. People can sometimes view drawing as a specialized skill and can have preconceived ideas of what drawing involves. This may present as a barrier for the client to engage in drawing techniques for therapy. As with all art therapy techniques, the therapist will remind the client that the purpose of art therapy is not to produce artwork but instead to explore emotional aspects through art.

Sculpture The benefit of sculpture is that it provides a dimensional view for the client. This can show the client that situations are multi-dimensional and can be approached from different points of view. Sculpture is a tactile art form and can give the client an opportunity to shape and construct his/her environment. Sculpture can take form using clay, paper clay or paper mache. Additional tools will include carving tools and any decorative items the client may want to add once the form has been constructed.

Collage Collage is a more passive approach to creating compared to drawing or painting because it is based on manipulating already constructed and designed items such as magazine images and word titles. It is an easier task for clients who are having difficulty starting tasks and making decisions.

Organizing images is seen as a less threatening way to express thoughts and feelings because it focuses less on invention (drawing), and more on construction. Art supplies include patterned papers, magazines, stamps, paper-based substrates, brayers, and adhesive. Pens, pencils and paints can be used to help the client add other important expressions to complete the picture.


Writing is not always viewed as a visual creative outlet; however, writing can be used in art journaling, story-boarding and comics. Writing in art therapy can involve the client writing in a journal and then creating art on top of the journal as a way of letting go of the content in the writing. Writing supplies include pen and paper, however, general art supplies can also be used based on how the client incorporates writing into their project. Using writing and specific keywords in art therapy can help the client solidify their overall thoughts and feelings about a particular issue.

Photography Photography used in Art Therapy allows the client to incorporate memories, past images and the digital manipulation of those images. Clients can use photos from their lives to help stimulate memories and then use the same photos using digital technology to construct a more positive framework.

Clients can create a series of photographs using mobile phone technology that is similar to the concept of storyboarding. Supplies include old photographs, a digital camera or a smartphone. These images can be transformed with more art therapy techniques either digitally or after they are printed.


Using textiles in art therapy typically involves using stuffed toys and puppets. This type of art therapy is useful for children and adult clients who experience physical difficulties with using art supplies that require fine motor skills.

Textiles add a sensory level of softness and texture which can assist in providing a level of comfort and safety for the client which can help build trust between the client and the therapist.


The use of art therapy using digital resources is a growing trend that is still evolving. Digital techniques can include manipulating photos or creating more elaborate artistic projects using graphics software or video editing software. As photography is a digital medium that is online and shareable, it is important to discuss boundaries with the client on how any images that are created will be stored. The digital aspect of art therapy will most likely become more important for future generations who function in a more digital dependent age.


As an art therapist, you may work with young children, adults or elderly patients. Art therapists work with clients from many different backgrounds experiencing many different health problems, disabilities or serious illnesses. Some examples of the types of situations where art therapy may be appropriate include:

Traumatic Brain Injury


Alzheimer's and Dementia

Learning and physical disabilities

Addiction and substance abuse

Grief and Bereavement therapy

Art therapy can help patients reconcile feelings of sadness, anger, guilt or self-destructive tendencies.

Art therapists usually work full time, between 30 and 40 hours per week, and in a variety of settings, including:


Psychiatric facilities

Schools and colleges

Clinical research facilities

Detention and rehabilitation centers

Crisis centers

Senior centers

Assisted living facilities

Governmental agencies

Private practice

Mental health agencies

Homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters

Correctional facilities


Psychology — Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.

Therapy and Counseling — Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.

Fine Arts — Knowledge of the theory and techniques required to compose, produce, and perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, and sculpture.

Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Sociology and Anthropology — Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.

Assessment & Evaluation Knowledge of statistics and analytical methods as they relate to the systematic collection of data as a way to monitor the success or failure of a treatment plan or program. This knowledge can be used to determine if a particular treatment plan has met desired outcomes, or to determine if therapies must be revised.

Research methods Knowledge needed to conduct scientific research and teach students and other professionals the latest therapeutic methods of art therapy.


Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.

Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.

Persuasion — Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.

Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.

Negotiation — Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.

Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.

Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.

Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.

Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.


Analytical or scientific software — IBM SPSS Statistics

Calendar and scheduling software — Appointment scheduling software

Computer aided design CAD software — Trimble SketchUp Pro

Database user interface and query software — Image databases

Desktop publishing software — Adobe Systems Adobe InDesign

Development environment software — Adobe Systems Adobe Creative Suite

Document management software — Adobe Systems Adobe Acrobat

Electronic mail software — Microsoft Outlook

Graphics or photo imaging software — Adobe Systems Adobe Illustrator ; Adobe Systems Adobe Photoshop ; Autodesk Maya

Internet browser software — Web browser software

Office suite software — Microsoft Office

Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint

Project management software — Case management software

Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel

Video creation and editing software — Adobe Systems Adobe AfterEffects

Word processing software — Microsoft Word


Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.

Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.

Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.

Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.

Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).

Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.

Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).

Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.

Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.

Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.

Organizational skills – The ability to juggle multiple tasks, prioritize projects and focus on desired outcomes. Time management, setting reasonable goals, and systematically working to ensure positive outcomes and results.


Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.

Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.

Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.

Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.

Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.

Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.

Performing for or Working Directly with the Public — Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.

Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.

Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.

Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.

Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.

Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.

Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.

Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.

Communicating with Persons Outside Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.

Provide Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.

Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.

Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.

Performing Administrative Activities — Performing day-to-day administrative tasks such as maintaining information files and processing paperwork.

Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.

Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.

Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.


● Interact with patients to build rapport or provide emotional support.

● Treat patients using psychological therapies.

● Develop treatment plans that use non-medical therapies.

● Prepare reports summarizing patient diagnostic or care activities.

● Monitor patient progress or responses to treatments.

● Record patient medical histories.

● Establish treatment goals.

● Collect medical information from patients, family members, or other medical professionals.

● Gather medical information from patient histories.

● Analyze patient data to determine patient needs or treatment goals.

● Evaluate patient outcomes to determine effectiveness of treatments.

● Communicate test or assessment results to medical professionals.

● Collaborate with healthcare professionals to plan or provide treatment.

● Prepare medical supplies or equipment for use.

● Select medical equipment for addressing patient needs.

● Order medical supplies or equipment.

● Supervise patient care personnel.

● Analyze quantitative data to determine effectiveness of treatments or therapies.

● Maintain medical or professional knowledge.

● Train caregivers or other non-medical personnel.

● Communicate health and wellness information to the public.


Work Styles-

Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.

Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.

Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.

Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.

Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.

Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.

Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.

Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.

Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.

Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.

Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.

Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.

Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.

Work Values-

Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.

Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.

Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.


Social — Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Artistic — Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.


Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy, which requires knowledge of the visual arts, as well as human development, counseling, and psychological theories and techniques. Generally, art therapists are trained in the theories of art therapy, psychotherapy, counseling, ethics and standards of practice, assessment and evaluation, as well as in individual, group, and family art therapy methods and techniques, human and creative development, research methods, and multicultural issues. There are a number of skills and abilities that are needed to compete and excel as an art therapist. Course providers will require you to have experience of artistic practice and will ask to see a portfolio of recent artwork. Full-time postgraduate courses usually take two years with part-time courses lasting three years. As part of the training, you'll undertake personal therapy and a clinical placement.


As an art therapist in India, the annual earnings range from R324,000 for entry level positions to over Rs565,000 for senior level professionals. The average annual salary is about Rs383,000 per year, or Rs184 per hour, and bonus pay can add another Rs4,500 to overall earnings.


Art therapy is a good career to embark on. The employment outlook for art therapists is expected to grow as fast as average as or faster than average through 2020. New discoveries in art therapy have created outstanding opportunities for art therapists to practice in new environments and treat patients with diverse conditions. As the benefits of art therapy continue to be discovered it is likely more opportunities will be about for art therapists to practice and for individuals to explore careers in art therapy as a form of health therapy rehabilitation.


Although there isn't one fixed career path within the profession, with experience you may move into a management role, leading a team of therapists or managing a therapy unit. You may also look into going into training roles alongside your usual therapy work and run short courses for other art therapists.

There are opportunities to combine work with different client groups and organizations, as well as combining art therapy with other roles such as community artist, teacher or professional artist.

Many therapists progress by developing expertise in areas such as:

the autistic spectrum

children with learning difficulties

forensic medicine

palliative care

stroke and head injuries.

You can also join regional groups of therapists, which focus on the needs of art therapy in a particular field, and exchange ideas and methods of working through peer review. It's usual to get as broad a portfolio of work experience as possible before deciding to specialise.

There are also opportunities for research and to work in higher education with trainees on one of the postgraduate training courses.


What is it like being an Art Therapist?

Art is great to project unto and when someone works with an art therapist, they have a third eye to help them solve issues. There is something for everyone with art therapy as art is universal. It’s playful and adventurous. Your job is to help people grow, and sometimes that means dealing with hard things, but that doesn't mean that the treatment needs to hurt. There is a lot of laughter and creativity included.

Is it worth becoming an Art Therapist?

The profession of an art therapist is not yet booming in India while the institutions offering the course and practice are also rare. An aspiring art therapist can find this course only in a few cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai.

Although these professionals haven't yet seen substantial opportunities in India, looking at the health ecosystem in the nation with people mostly suffering from mental conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, the future is expected to bring along a huge demand of art therapists.

A person who is an avid painter or art performer with a deep interest in the medical field, especially psychological domain, should undoubtedly ponder upon the idea of venturing into this sector. Internationally, it has already started showing its scope in various countries.

Are Art Therapists happy?

Art therapists rate their career happiness 3.7 out of 5 stars which puts them in the top 19% of careers. They are satisfied with their jobs including the salary, especially altruism takes a greater place. Not only helping others make them feel accomplished but also solve and sort out their own life. They consider their jobs fun and adventurous, it keeps them on their toes.

Should I become an Art Therapist?

Art therapists use visual art media to help people who may struggle to communicate verbally to express their feelings and confront difficult emotional issues.

Those who are referred to an art therapist don't need to have experience of - or be any good at - art. The aim is to use art as a medium to enable them to communicate and to help with awareness and self-development in a safe environment.

Therapy may be carried out in group or one-to-one settings and you may work closely with other healthcare professionals in a multidisciplinary team.

A career as an art therapist could be for you if you're trustworthy, have excellent observation and listening skills and like the sound of helping people express their emotions creatively.

What are Art Therapists like?

Art therapists use the process of self-expression, and the resulting artwork to help clients understand their emotional conflicts, develop social skills, improve self-esteem, manage addictions, reduce anxiety, and restore normal function to their lives.

Art therapy involves the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art. With the guidance of a credentialed art therapist, clients can "decode" the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in these art forms, which should lead to a better understanding of their feelings and behavior so they can move on to resolve deeper issues.

Art Therapists are fun to be with, they have a great personality and are very approachable.

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