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Working as a Creative Art Therapist

What Does a Creative Art Therapist Do

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. These therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts; drama, music, and dance; sports and games; aquatics; and community outings to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Duties

Recreational therapists typically do the following:

  • Assess patients’ needs through observations, medical records, tests, and discussions with other healthcare professionals, patients’ families, and patients
  • Create treatment plans and programs that meet patients’ needs and interests
  • Plan and implement interventions to prevent harm to a patient
  • Engage patients in therapeutic activities, such as exercise, games, and community outings
  • Help patients learn social skills needed to become or remain independent
  • Teach patients about ways to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Record and analyze a patient’s progress
  • Evaluate interventions for effectiveness

Recreational therapists help people reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic physical and mental abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively.

They use activities, such as arts and crafts, dance, or sports, to help their patients. For example, a recreational therapist can help a patient who is paralyzed on one side of their body by teaching them to adapt activities, like casting a fishing rod or swinging a golf club, by using their functional side.

Therapists often treat specific groups of patients, such as children with cancer. Therapists may use activities such as kayaking or a ropes course to teach patients to stay active and to form social relationships.

Recreational therapists help people with disabilities integrate into the community by teaching them how to use community resources and recreational activities. For example, therapists may teach a patient who uses a wheelchair how to use public transportation.

Therapists may also provide interventions for patients who need help developing social and coping skills. For example, a therapist may use a therapy dog to help patients manage their depression or anxiety.

Therapists may work with physicians or surgeons, registered nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, teachers, or occupational therapists. Recreational therapists are different from recreation workers, who organize recreational activities primarily for enjoyment.

How To Become a Creative Art Therapist

Recreational therapists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Many employers require therapists to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

Education

Recreational therapists typically need a bachelor’s degree, usually in recreational therapy or a related field such as recreation and leisure studies.

Recreational therapy programs include courses in assessment, human anatomy, medical and psychiatric terminology, characteristics of illnesses and disabilities, and the use of assistive devices and technology. Bachelor’s degree programs usually include an internship.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most employers, particularly those in hospitals and other clinical settings, prefer to hire certified recreational therapists. The NCTRC offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential. Candidates may qualify for certification through one of two pathways. The first option requires a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy, which includes the completion of a supervised internship of at least 560 hours, and passing an exam. The second option also requires passing an exam, but allows candidates with a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated subject to qualify with a combination of education and work experience. Therapists must take continuing education classes to maintain certification.

NCTRC also offers specialty certification in five areas of practice: behavioral health, community inclusion services, developmental disabilities, geriatrics, and physical medicine/rehabilitation. Therapists also may earn certificates from other organizations to show proficiency in specific therapy techniques, such as aquatic therapy or aromatherapy.

As of 2014, only New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah required recreational therapists to obtain a license. Requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the state’s medical board.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Recreational therapists should be kind and empathetic when providing support to patients and their families. They may deal with patients who are in pain or under emotional stress.

Leadership skills. Recreational therapists must be able to plan, develop, and implement intervention programs in an effective manner. They must be engaging and able to motivate patients to participate in a variety of therapeutic activities.

Listening skills. Recreational therapists must listen carefully to a patient’s problems and concerns. They can then determine an appropriate course of treatment for that patient.

Patience. Recreational therapists may work with some patients who require more time and special attention than others.

Resourcefulness. Recreational therapists customize treatment plans for patients. They must be both creative and flexible when adapting activities or programs to each patient’s needs.

Speaking skills. Recreational therapists need to communicate well with their patients. They must give clear directions during activities or instructions on healthy coping techniques.

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Average Salary$53,822
Job Growth Rate7%

Creative Art Therapist Jobs

Creative Art Therapist Career Paths

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Average Salary for a Creative Art Therapist

Creative Art Therapists in America make an average salary of $53,822 per year or $26 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $69,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $41,000 per year.
Average Salary
$53,822

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range40k - 106k$66k$65,926
Salary Range41k - 102k$65k$65,156
Salary Range41k - 93k$63k$62,765
Salary Range42k - 93k$63k$62,750
Salary Range38k - 90k$59k$58,782
Salary Range42k - 74k$56k$56,342
$38k
$106k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Creative Art Therapist
Creative Art Therapist
Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration
Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration
10/26/2019
10/26/2019
$67,41810/26/2019
$67,418
Creative Art Therapist
Creative Art Therapist
Defense Health Agency
Defense Health Agency
09/25/2019
09/25/2019
$69,58109/25/2019
$69,581
Creative Art Therapist
Creative Art Therapist
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
08/29/2019
08/29/2019
$66,25008/29/2019
$66,250
Creative Art Therapist
Creative Art Therapist
Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration
Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration
08/01/2019
08/01/2019
$59,17308/01/2019
$59,173
Creative Art Therapist
Creative Art Therapist
State of North Carolina
State of North Carolina
07/30/2019
07/30/2019
$36,67707/30/2019
$36,677
See More Recent Salaries

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Creative Art Therapist Demographics

Gender

female

68.6%

male

25.8%

unknown

5.7%

Ethnicity

White

73.0%

Hispanic or Latino

9.9%

Black or African American

7.9%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

46.2%

French

23.1%

German

7.7%
See More Demographics

Creative Art Therapist Education

Degrees

Masters

69.2%

Bachelors

16.8%

Certificate

6.3%

Top Colleges for Creative Art Therapists

1. Duke University

Durham, NC

Tuition and fees
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

2. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA

Tuition and fees
$12,424
Enrollment
15,201

3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC

Tuition and fees
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

4. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Tuition and fees
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

5. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY

Tuition and fees
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

6. Tufts University

Medford, MA

Tuition and fees
$56,382
Enrollment
5,597

7. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL

Tuition and fees
$6,381
Enrollment
34,564

8. Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO

Tuition and fees
$53,399
Enrollment
7,356

9. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

Tuition and fees
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

10. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA

Tuition and fees
$6,798
Enrollment
31,503
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Creative Art Therapist

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Top Skills For a Creative Art Therapist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 14.8% of creative art therapists listed creative arts therapy on their resume, but soft skills such as dexterity and speaking skills are important as well.

Best States For a Creative Art Therapist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a creative art therapist. The best states for people in this position are Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, and Delaware. Creative art therapists make the most in Rhode Island with an average salary of $65,583. Whereas in New York and Connecticut, they would average $65,295 and $65,176, respectively. While creative art therapists would only make an average of $64,810 in Delaware, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Pennsylvania

Total Creative Art Therapist Jobs:
232
Highest 10% Earn:
$138,000
Location Quotient:
2.25
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Texas

Total Creative Art Therapist Jobs:
208
Highest 10% Earn:
$102,000
Location Quotient:
1.13
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. New York

Total Creative Art Therapist Jobs:
261
Highest 10% Earn:
$144,000
Location Quotient:
2.14
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Creative Art Therapist Employers

1. Kings County Hospital Center
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$44,741
Creative Art Therapists Hired: 
12+
2. Brattleboro Retreat
3.0
Avg. Salary: 
$47,649
Creative Art Therapists Hired: 
5+
3. New York University
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$58,034
Creative Art Therapists Hired: 
4+
4. North Shore Univ Hospital
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$58,640
Creative Art Therapists Hired: 
3+
5. Mercy
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$38,946
Creative Art Therapists Hired: 
3+
6. Trinitas Regional Medical Center
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$44,039
Creative Art Therapists Hired: 
3+

Recently Added Creative Art Therapist Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020