Job descriptions and industry overviews

Arts therapist

24 Feb 2023, 14:43

Uses the creative process of making visual art within a therapeutic environment to encourage patients to express and release strong feelings and emotions.

Person drawing

Arts therapists use the creative process of artisitic endeavours, including visual art, music and drama, in a therapeutic capacity to help patients through difficult mental and emotional traumas. They encourage patients to engage with art and to express their emotions cathartically, in the creative process. The artistic process can be particularly benfitial to patients and can allow them to express thoughts and feelings that are otherwise difficult to deal or that might be subconscious.

Working in a variety of client settings – for example psychiatry, and special education facilities – the focus is not on the artistic talent of the patient but on their ability to channel their feelings through the medium of the arts.

Work conditions

Travel: during working day can be frequent depending on client group.
Working hours: an extended working day is common particularly in private practice as clients come before and/or after work.
Location: in towns and cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: commonly possible as many work in private practice.

Typical employers

  • Hospitals
  • Residential institutions
  • Prisons
  • Rehabilitation units
  • Mental health facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Community health centres
  • Palliative care units
  • Educational settings (mainstream and special needs schools)
  • Private practices.

Career development

This is still a developing field in Ireland with many therapists working in private practice. Career structures are not yet in place yet and arts therapists are not currently on the list of professionals due to be regulated by the Health and Social Care Professionals Council.


Rates of pay will vary considerably depending on the client base, employer, hours and nature of the job.

Entry requirements

There is currently no statutory regulation of arts therapists in Ireland.

Specific degree subjects required

Open to non-graduates and graduates of all disciplines.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Art
  • Dance
  • Drama/Theatre studies
  • Music
  • Nursing
  • Psychology
  • Psychotherapy
  • Social work.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is now normally expected. An undergraduate degree in the therapy medium e.g. art, music etc. or ability to demonstrate a comparable level of skill, followed by specialised professional training available from a number of centres is becoming the norm.


Entry requirements for training courses vary. Recognition of courses for the purposes of professional accreditation is determined by the Registration Committee of IACAT. Details of IACAT Approved Training in Ireland and Northern Ireland can be found here.

To practice in the UK courses must be recognised by the Health Professions Council (HPC), which regulates the Allied Health Professions.

Tips for applications

Gain relevant work experience.

Skills and qualities

  • Ability to empathise and build a supportive relationship with clients.
  • Interest in self-awareness and self-development.
  • Patience, tolerance and a sense of humour.
  • Passionate about the therapeutic medium used.
  • Must be in control of their feelings, thoughts and emotions whilst working with clients.

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