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Creative Arts Therapist Job Description, Career as a Creative Arts Therapist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Postgraduate education

Salary Median: $36,600 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Creative arts therapists improve clients’ overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being. These human service professionals apply the techniques of various art forms to increase social function, improve coordination and communication, and enable expression of feelings. Creative arts therapists generally specialize in a particular area, such as drama, poetry, dance and movement, music, or art therapies. They interview patients and collaborate with other health experts to understand the patients’ psychotherapeutic needs. These specialized therapists normally work with people suffering from emotional problems, learning disorders, and physical disabilities.

Individuals interested in creative arts therapy must possess good communication skills and artistic ability and enjoy working with those in need of therapy. Some typical job duties of creative arts therapists include assessing the needs of clients, prescribing a creative arts treatment process, developing activities for various creative arts groups, and evaluating through observation the responses of clients to such therapies.

Education and Training Requirements

Creative arts therapists must have a master’s degree in art therapy. High school students who wish to become creative arts therapists must take courses in physics, biology, English, algebra, fine arts (drama, art, dance, music, etc.), literature, computer science, physical education, sociology, and psychology or medicine.

Many rehabilitation centers, clinics, and hospitals offer part-time work to candidates. Some institutes ask students to submit samples of their artwork. A master’s degree is an additional two years of study, past undergraduate work, and includes 1,000 hours of experience in numerous clinical settings. In the first year, students are taught introductory courses. By the second year, they may concentrate on some specialty.

Getting the Job

Students can apply to the placement office of their college or university for employment assistance. Networking among connections formed during internships may help in this regard. Membership in the American Art Therapy Association, or AATA, is another great way of coming across good opportunities.

Those willing to work as creative arts therapists in federal and state government can write to the Office of Personnel Management’s local branch. Staff there may provide details of the application process. Posting resumes to clinics and hospitals may provide opportunities for interviews for creative arts therapy positions. Information regarding such openings can also be found in newsletters and professional journals.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Creative arts therapy is a growing field, and employment is likely to increase in the coming years. Therapists in large institutes may advance toward administrative or supervisory positions. Those interested in pursuing teaching or research positions should obtain a doctorate.

While nursing homes and hospitals are curtailing their arts therapy services because of budget restraints, outpatient centers are likely to experience a significant increase in the need for trained personnel. Since the size of this profession is quite small, employment will not vary with individuals retiring from the profession. Creative arts therapists having a postgraduate degree and prior experience are expected to have the best career opportunities.

Working Conditions

Creative arts therapists usually work in nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, clinics, outpatient mental health organizations, homeless shelters, correctional institutions, colleges and universities, residential treatment centers, halfway houses, art studios, elder care facilities, and behavioral health centers. Creative arts therapists frequently have to interact with psychologists, physicians, mental health counselors, nurses, rehabilitation counselors, marriage and family therapists, teachers, and social workers. Together, they understand the therapeutic goals of the client and determine a treatment plan.

Some arts therapists have their own studio or office where they meet clients. The office has art supplies and work space where clients can work in a group or alone.

Where to Go for More Information

The Center for Creative Arts Therapies
1030 Second St.
P.O. Box 9296
Santa Rosa, CA 95405

The National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations
c/o AMTA
8455 Colesville Rd., Suite 1000
Silver Spring, MD 20910

The American Art Therapy Association
225 N. Fairfax St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for creative arts therapists depend on their practice location, type of practice, and job responsibilities. The mean annual salary of creative arts therapists in the United States is about $36,600. Entry-level positions offer an average annual salary of $25,000. The starting salaries of music therapists are around $29,000 per year, while the median annual salary is $38,000. Creative arts therapists with doctoral degrees can earn between $85 and $120 per hour.

Creative arts therapists employed in a clinic, school, or health care center generally receive medical insurance and paid vacations. Self-employed therapists, however, do not enjoy such benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts