What Does a Creative Arts Therapist Do?

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  • Written By: Nicole Etolen
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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A creative arts therapist uses different art techniques to work with patients suffering from a wide range of physical and mental conditions. The different types of art used during a therapy session may include painting, dance, music, or play-acting. Typically a creative arts therapist specializes in one field of art, although some may draw on a wider range of fields.

Creative arts therapy is beneficial to patients primarily because it allows them a chance to express their emotions in a range of ways. For example, a patient suffering from depression may use writing as a creative outlet, while a child with autism may use drawings to communicate with others. Creative art therapy can also help patients discover emotions that they may not even be aware of, which in turn allows their therapist to help them better cope with their situation.

Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of using creative art therapy to improve both mental and physical health, and the results have been overwhelmingly in favor of the therapy. This type of therapy is beneficial to both children and adults. Research indicates that it can help reduce recovery time in post-operative patients, reduce stress, and even alleviate pain in some patients.


The education requirements for a creative arts therapist vary depending on the field of specialization, but most therapists typically receive at least a master’s degree (MA) in Art Therapy. Those who want to work with special needs children typically major in a field that combines art therapy with special education. Towards the end of the degree program, students typically spend a significant amount of time working in the field as an intern to gain the necessary experience. Once students graduate, they typically need to become registered with the authority that governs the field of therapy within their region.

A creative arts therapist can work in many different environments. Some are employed by school systems to help students, while others may work in a hospital or outpatient clinic. Some creative arts therapists choose to open their own practice, although they typically wait until they have sufficient experience in the field before going out on their own. Therapists can work with individuals, families, or groups, depending on the structure of their sessions and the needs of their patients.

The job outlook for a creative arts therapist is expected to remain steady. It is a relatively small field, with a good balance between new graduates entering into the field and long-term therapists retiring out of the field. Some creative arts therapists choose to continue their education to the doctoral (PhD) level and work as university professors.



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