Art, Music or Drama Therapist


The arts therapies is a generic term for the four separate professions of music therapy, drama therapy, art therapy and dance movement psychotherapy. Each of the arts therapies has specialist training in their own art form and how to apply this in a clinical setting. 

Arts therapists work with individuals and groups using the creative arts to explore their experiences in life and support them to make changes that improve their social and emotional wellbeing.

Arts therapists also work closely with a person’s support network. This can include family members and/or carer teams – to ensure that the person has practical support to access therapy or provide psycho-education. Arts therapists actively liaise with the person’s health and social care team.

Salary, hours and benefits

Average salary

£30,000- £45,000 per annum depending on experience

Typical hoursStandard hours are usually around 37.5 hours a week.
You could work
  • A minimum of 27 days of annual leave per annum
  • Access to occupational health services
  • Opportunity to join the NHS Pension Scheme
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Opportunities for flexible working

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • assessing the psychological needs of an individual and developing a formulation that describes the issue that brings the person to therapy and sets out a treatment plan, 
  • delivering arts therapy treatment interventions. This will take the form of running groups or seeing individual clients, usually weekly, 
  • measuring the effectiveness of therapy through accessible outcome measures and client-led goal setting,
  • liaison with family and support network, which will include teachers, G.P, and social care,
  • involvement in multidisciplinary team planning and decision-making.

Other tasks

  • writing reports,
  • engaging in clinical supervision,
  • developing a client’s creativity to enhance their life and offer support after therapy has ended,
  • engagement in audit and clinical outcome measures,
  • keeping up to date with continuing professional development,
  • supervision of arts therapies trainees.

Work Environment

Arts Therapists work in the NHS and in private healthcare – both in community settings and in inpatient settings. Arts therapists also work in a range of settings such as schools, charities, day centres, and hospices. Additionally, arts therapists may be self-employed or work on a freelance basis.

Characteristics and skills required

You’ll need:

  • passion for the creative arts and your own arts-based practice,
  • knowledge of how to use a broad range of techniques using your own arts media and adapt these to different clinical situations,
  • knowledge of psychological processes and grounding in psychotherapy,
  • good communication skills and the ability to adapt resources to meet client needs, to explain complex information in a simple format,
  • good written communication for report writing and presentations,
  • ability to manage challenging situations and diffuse conflict,
  • ability to remain calm when faced with distressing emotions and life experiences,
  • knowledge of relevant legislation and policies that protect clients and inform clinical practice,
  • ability to prioritise, to organise and execute broad ranging tasks,
  • business skills for self-employed work,
  • warmth, patience, understanding and compassion.

Career path and progression

Career Framework levelRoleDegree?
2Support worker
3Senior healthcare technicians/ assistantsNo
4Assistant practitioners/ associate practitioners
The arts therapies assistant supports the wider arts therapies team to deliver high quality therapeutic care. Their role involves supporting the activities of the team. An important developmental aspect of their role involves supporting the delivery and administration of arts therapies groups. They receive weekly supervision and regular team support.
The arts therapist will be responsible for a clinical caseload and will deliver group and individual arts therapies interventions to the client group. They will have a sound knowledge of the issues and experiences that are common to people with a learning disability seeking psychological support. They will have good communication skills and understand the need for a range of adapted communication methods to best meet the needs of their service users and their caring network. They will receive regular clinical supervision.
Masters degree
6Senior practitioners/ specialist practitioners
The arts therapist will have significant post-qualification clinical experience. They will be responsible for a clinical caseload that delivers specialised group and individual interventions to people with a learning disability and their care network. They will also be a clinical supervisor of trainees on the masters programme. They may supervise band 6 colleagues. They will have skills in audit, evaluation and research. They may lead on service development projects within their team. They will work with colleagues across the multidisciplinary team to delivery into key pathways in learning disability services, such as positive behaviour support, trauma-informed care, and inpatient treatment.
Masters degree
7Advanced Practitioners
The lead arts therapist will have clinical and managerial responsibility for the whole arts therapies team and service. They will have additional skills and experience in leadership and clinical specialty. They will be the responsible budget holder. They will be responsible for recruitment, personnel development, and performance management of the arts therapies team. They will oversee treatment pathways and monitor demand and capacity within their services. They will regularly report to the Trust senior management team on the efficacy and effectiveness of the arts therapies service. They will lead on research and evaluation within and beyond their team.
Master’s degree
8Consultant practitioners
The consultant arts therapist will hold a role that involves professional and strategic leadership in their rust and within the field of learning disability. They may have responsibility for clinicians beyond their professional discipline i.e. Allies Health Professionals more broadly.

Master’s degree

How to become an Art, Music or Drama Therapist

To qualify as an arts therapist you are required to undertake an approved postgraduate programme at university. After graduating with a Masters-level degree, you will need to register with the Health and Professions Council in order to practice as an arts therapist. You may also join one of the professional bodies that support arts therapists.

You will need to have an undergraduate degree in a relevant area, usually in the arts. However, social care, nursing, and psychology are also accepted. You will need to demonstrate proficiency in your specialist area of the arts (music, dance, art, or drama). Most post-graduate courses require applicants to have experience of working in the helping professions (health and social care), this can be paid work or as a volunteer. During your training you will have to undertake personal therapy.

The postgraduate training can be completed over two years full-time or three years part-time. Each training course consists of lectures, experiential workshops, academic writing, and clinical placements.

The arts therapies are currently looking at ways to improve access and promote diversity within the professions. One approach they are trialling is the use of apprenticeships. These roles combine ‘on the job’ experience in the NHS with university modules, and lead to the same qualification.

These roles are not yet widely available.

From within health and social care

If you are already working in the health and social care sector and you are looking for a new challenge, then you can change career to become an art, music and drama therapist within learning disability and autism support and care. You will need a relevant degree and to map your skills and experience against the entry criteria for the postgraduate programme as set out by the relevant universities.

From outside health and social care

If you want to work in health and social care and you are looking for a new challenge, then you can change career to become an art, music and drama therapist within learning disability and autism support and care. You will need a relevant degree and to map your skills and experience against the entry criteria for the postgraduate programme as set out by the relevant universities.

Financial support

Many arts therapy trainees self-fund their postgraduate training. There may be access to bursaries through some educational establishments and private funders. In addition, arts therapy trainees need to self-fund personal therapy for the duration of their training.

Current opportunities

Each of the arts therapies professional bodies share advertised job roles with members. 

Many arts therapists use their personal networks to source potential job roles.

Most NHS trusts advertise their vacancies on NHS Jobs. Some advertise on trust websites. You can find a list of trusts on NHS Choices.

Related careers

Clinical psychologist

Find out more