|Career Profile - Art Therapist|
|Written by Careers Advice|
|Friday, 10 October 2008|
What is the work like?
Art therapists use art as a way of helping people to express difficult thoughts and feelings through creative activities.
As an art therapist, you would not teach art and your clients would not need any artistic skills. Instead, you would encourage them to experiment with art techniques and materials like paint, paper and clay. This would be with the aim of helping them:
* become aware of their feelings
* express themselves
* work through their emotions
* come to terms with difficult times in their lives
* move on in a positive way.
Therapy sessions could be in a group or on a one-to-one basis. Your clients could include children or adults with disabilities, emotional or behavioural problems, speech and language difficulties, mental illness or those recovering from addiction, injury or illness.
You would work closely with other healthcare professionals such as psychologists, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and psychiatrists.
What qualifications and experience will employers look for?
To work as an art therapist you need to complete a postgraduate diploma (or Masters) approved by the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT). Once you have qualified, you must register with the Health Professions Council (HPC) in order to be able to practise as an art therapist.
BAAT and HPC-approved postgraduate diplomas (or Masters) in Art Therapy or Art Psychotherapy are offered by several universities throughout the UK. Courses are usually two years full-time or three years part-time. See the BAAT and HPC websites for details of approved courses.
To get onto an approved postgraduate course, you will usually need to be a graduate in art and design, or a qualified art teacher. Graduates in other relevant subjects such as psychology or social work may also be considered. Please check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.
Relevant paid or voluntary experience will be useful and possibly essential when you are applying for the postgraduate course or for jobs. Experience in community arts projects, youth work, healthcare or working with people with disabilities or mental health issues would be especially useful.
Some colleges offer introductory courses in art therapy or creative therapies, which you may find helpful but are not essential.
What further training and development can I do?
During your postgraduate or Masters course, your training will include psychology, child development and family dynamics, psychiatry and the history and theory of art therapy. You will take part in practical training and clinical placements, and you will undergo personal therapy yourself.
As a registered art therapist, you will have regular supervision sessions with another therapist who is a registered supervisor. You should keep you professional knowledge and skills up to date by taking short courses and workshops such as those offered by the BAAT.
What salary and other benefits can I expect?
* A newly qualified art therapist in the NHS can earn between £23,000 and £31,000 a year.
* With experience this can rise to around £37,000.
* Senior or principal therapists can earn up to around £43,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
What are the hours and working conditions?
Your typical working hours would be between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, although some jobs may involve evening or weekend sessions. Part-time and freelance work is common.
You could work in a variety of settings such as schools, hospitals, prisons and day centres, depending on your client group. You may need to travel to different locations for work.
What skills and knowledge will I need?
* experience of working in the arts
* a non-judgemental attitude and the ability to relate to people from all backgrounds
* a strong interest or background in psychology
* creativity, intuition and imagination
* the ability to handle sensitive and difficult issues
* empathy and the ability to gain clients’ trust
* strong communication and listening skills
* a flexible and adaptable approach
* the confidence to work with people both one-to-one and in groups
* patience and commitment
* emotional strength and the ability to cope with challenging situations.
What opportunities are there?
You will find most opportunities in the NHS – visit the NHS Jobs website for vacancies. You could also find work with local authorities, voluntary organisations, the Prison Service, or in private practice.
Many work opportunities are part-time or temporary, and often depend on organisations gaining funding for particular projects.
With experience, you may go on to train as a therapy supervisor, lead a team of therapists or manage an arts therapy unit.
Where can I go for more information?
PO Box 376
Tel: 0845 606 0655
Health Learning and Skills Advice Line
Tel: 08000 150850
British Association of Arts Therapists (BAAT)
24-27 White Lion Street
Tel: 020 7686 4216
Health Professions Council
184 Kennington Park Road
Tel: 020 7582 0866
If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning adviser, call 0800 100 900 or visit: www.direct.gov.uk/careersadvice