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Creative Arts Therapist

Creative arts therapists use artistic media to help clients maintain and improve their health and well-being. This therapy helps people to discover and develop their inner resources.

Also Known As

Art Therapist, Dance-Movement Therapist, Drama Therapist, Expressive Arts Therapist, Music Therapist, Play Therapist, Counsellor

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 3144: Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment

2006 NOC-S

  • D044: Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment

2011 NOC

  • 3144: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment

2016 NOC

  • 3144: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment

2021 NOC

  • 41301: Therapists in counselling and related specialized therapies

2023 OaSIS

  • 41301.00: Therapists in counselling and related specialized therapies
Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2024

Creative arts therapists use creative media and approaches to:

  • Address issues related to mental, physical, or developmental challenges
  • Support mental and physical health in people of all ages and abilities
  • Promote wellness, creativity, and personal growth

Creative arts therapists provide a safe and inclusive setting for people who may have trouble expressing themselves because of physical, emotional, or other barriers. Creative arts therapists use creative processes to improve clients’ awareness and promote inner change and growth. They may use visual art, dance, drama, music, or a combination of the arts. Many children, in particular, find it easier to share their feelings by creating art than by expressing themselves verbally.

  • Art therapists use visual art to assess and treat clients of all ages. The art process can expand people’s ability to express themselves, understand their experiences, and problem solve. Professional art therapists who have completed graduate level training may also conduct or participate in research. They provide therapy to individuals and groups of all ages. They may also educate, collaborate with, and be consultants for other mental health professionals.
  • Dance therapists focus on non-verbal behaviour. They encourage clients to use creative, expressive body movement to express feelings and address emotional issues. Dance / movement therapists observe and assess body movements, and use those movements to address the emotional, social, physical, and cognitive state of an individual.
  • Drama therapists use creative play, psychodrama, role play, improvisation, and theatre to address emotional issues. Drama can provide a means for participants to tell their stories, set goals, solve problems, and express feelings. Drama therapy can help an individual actively explore their inner experiences.
  • Music therapists use active and receptive music-making to help clients process emotions, achieve physical goals, and develop coping strategies. Active music interventions may include singing or other types of vocalizations, playing instruments, improvising, and song writing. Receptive music experiences may include listening to music, moving, drawing, or writing in response to music, guided imagery, lyric analysis, sensory stimulation, or relaxation. Certified music therapists (MTAs) may conduct or participate in research. They may also educate, collaborate with, and consult for other mental health professionals.
  • Play therapists use play, the natural language of children, to provide a safe, consistent therapeutic environment in which a child can experience acceptance, empathy, and understanding. This helps children process their inner experiences and feelings.

For each client or client group, therapists:

  • Assess needs and strengths
  • Identify treatment goals
  • Select an approach or approaches and develop a treatment program
  • Use programs or strategies that involve music, art, drama, dance, or a combination of these
  • Continually assess and evaluate treatment outcomes against the client’s needs
  • Adjust approaches or programs as needed to best meet the client’s needs, such as by transposing music to better suit the client’s vocal range

Whether as members of interdisciplinary teams or individuals in private practice, creative arts therapists work collaboratively with other professionals. These include, but are not limited to, psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, nurses, speech-language pathologists, counsellors, and allied health professionals.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2024
  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary

Creative arts therapists’ hours of work can vary, with some working standard office hours and others working evenings or weekends. They work in hospitals, schools, continuing care homes, community agencies, and prisons. They may also work in private practice.

All therapies require clients to feel safe, and to give consent. Creative arts therapists consistently assess the therapeutic environment for safety risks and modify their space according to each client’s unique needs. For example, arts therapists may monitor the use of specific art supplies, such as sharp tools or scissors.

Music therapists may be required to lift and carry instruments and other equipment. In some cases, they may be responsible for transporting clients to and from the therapeutic program within a facility.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment

2006 NOC: 3144

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
SOCIAL

Interest in mentoring patients by providing treatment and advising them on how to deal with their mental and physical abilities; and in consulting with other health care professionals to evaluate treatment plans

INNOVATIVE

Interest in co-ordinating, initiating, designing and implementing specialized therapy programs for the general patient population and in the community; may conduct research in respective field of specialization

METHODICAL

Interest in operating - manipulating equipment and following procedures to implement treatment plans by carrying out specialized therapy sessions employing techniques such as art, athletic, dance, music or recreational therapy or remedial gymnastics; and in observing and analyzing patients during treatment sessions

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2024

Creative arts therapists need:

  • Proficiency in their chosen creative area (art, music, or dance)
  • An interest in promoting social justice, including equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility
  • Creativity and the ability to be flexible and adaptable
  • Enthusiasm
  • A non-judgmental attitude
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • A tolerance for ambiguity
  • Initiative
  • Personal awareness and care for their own mental and physical health
  • Compassion
  • Self-awareness

They should enjoy:

  • Working with people
  • Developing and running innovative therapy programs while using artistic techniques
  • Supporting people as they work through strong emotions and difficult circumstances

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment

2016 NOC: 3144

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 60 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Nov 03, 2021 and May 01, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Health benefits: Health care plan
Health benefits: Dental plan
Long term benefits: Other benefits
Long term benefits: Registered retirement savings plan (RRSP)
Long term benefits: Life insurance
Interview patients and review reports from health care professionals to determine patients' current and potential functioning levels
Tasks: Interview patients and review reports from health care professionals to determine patients' current and potential functioning levels
Security and Safety: Criminal record check
Attention to detail
Tasks: Prepare a treatment plan for each patient
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2024
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary

Creative arts therapists typically need graduate level or equivalent specialized training in art, drama, music, play, or expressive arts. A graduate diploma in art therapy allows one to practice as a professional art therapist.

Admission to master’s degree or post-graduate diploma programs generally requires a 4-year undergraduate degree with courses in psychology and a related discipline, and a background involving art, dance, music, or drama. Many schools offer online or distance programs.

Music therapists must have competency in their primary instrument, as well as functional and flexible piano, guitar, and vocal skills. Art therapists must have competency in a range of 2D and 3D art materials.


Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

Kutenai Art Therapy Institute

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Gonzaga University
Vancouver Art Therapy Institute

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

 

Outside of Alberta, art and expressive art therapy programs are offered by the:

Concordia University in Montreal offers a master’s program for drama therapy.

The National Centre for Dance Therapy in Montreal offers a training option in dance movement therapy.

For more information on training programs for art therapy, visit the Canadian Art Therapy Association website.

Programs in music therapy are offered by:

For more information on training programs for music therapy, visit the Canadian Association of Music Therapists website.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2024
  • Certification Not Regulated

Regulation for creative arts therapists is specific and subject to individual provincial regulation standards and varies across Canada. However, based on their training and specialty focus, most creative arts therapists belong to a professional association. Both music and art therapy are in the process of becoming regulated in Alberta. However, voluntary certifications may be available.

Depending upon the province, certified music therapists may qualify to belong to provincial regulatory colleges that oversee the practice of counselling or psychotherapy, including in Alberta.

Certification by the Canadian Art Therapy Association (CATA) requires graduation from a CATA-approved program that meets the education standards of CATA-ACAT. They abide by the CATA-ACAT standards of practice, which consist of:

  • Core compulsory coursework
  • Practicum hours (at least 100 direct client hours after graduation)
  • Associated clinical supervision hours (at least 50)
  • A thesis or integrative project
  • Evidence of a positive presence in the community

Certification by the Ontario Expressive Arts Therapies Association (OEATA) can be obtained through membership, which is open to trained creative arts therapists who have had some training in EXAT (expressive arts therapies—trauma informed)

Certification by the Canadian Dance Movement Therapy Association (DMTAC) is being developed.

Certification by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) requires:

  • A master’s degree with specified dance and movement therapy courses
  • At least 5 years of concentrated study in dance
  • 200 hours of fieldwork
  • Completion of a 700-hour internship

Certification by the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) requires:

  • A master’s degree in drama therapy from a NADTA-approved program (or a master’s degree in a related field and completion of specified education requirements)
  • 500 hours of drama or theatre experience
  • 500 hours of additional training or experience
  • Completion of a 300-hour internship

Certification by the Canadian Association of Music Therapists (CAMT) requires music therapists to:

  • Be well-rounded musicians
  • Have a minimum bachelor’s degree in music therapy from a CAMT-recognized school or equivalent
  • Have successfully completed a 1,000-hour internship under the supervision of qualified music therapists
  • Pass the Certification Board of Music Therapists (CBMT) exam administered in the USA

Art therapists in Canada may complete additional certifications through the US-based Art Therapy Credentials Board.

  • Registered Art Therapist (ATR) accreditation requires successful completion of advanced specific graduate-level education in art therapy and supervised post-graduate art therapy experience.
  • Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC) accreditation requires passing the national examination on the theories and clinical skills used in art therapy. All those who hold ATR-BC designations must recertify every five years by completing 100 continuing education credits or successfully passing the national exam again.
Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2024

Creative arts therapists may work in:

  • Rehabilitation centres
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Prisons and other correctional facilities
  • Private practice
  • Community mental health centres
  • Seniors’ centres and continuing care homes
  • Early learning and daycare centres
  • Counselling centres and clinics

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 3144: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment occupational group, 84.8% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 3144: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.9% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 25 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2024

Incomes for creative arts therapists vary depending on whether the individual is working in private practice or within the education or health systems. Incomes generally compare well with other mental health professionals who have similar qualifications, like psychologists and social workers.

Many creative arts therapists work as private contractors and typically include factors such as travel time, materials, practitioner experience, and documentation time in their fee.

For information about current collective agreements in the public and not-for-profit sectors, see the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment

2016 NOC: 3144
Average Wage
$37.38
Per Hour
Average Salary
$64,143.00
Per Year
Average Hours
33.9
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 3144 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $16.50 $37.85 $30.64 $35.81
Overall $19.50 $49.80 $37.38 $43.13
Top $20.91 $50.33 $40.81 $47.67

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

ALL INDUSTRIES
Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
60%
60%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
0%
0%
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
23%
23%
Vacancy Rate
N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Education and Library Studies
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
  • Social Sciences, Law and Religious Studies
  • Social, Community and Protective Services
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2024

American Art Therapy Association (AATA) website: arttherapy.org

American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) website: www.adta.org

Association des Art-Therapeutes du Quebec (AATQ) website: aatq.org

British Columbia Art Therapy Association (BCATA) website: bcarttherapy.com

Canadian Art Therapy Association (CATA) website: www.canadianarttherapy.org

Canadian Association of Music Therapists (CAMT) website: www.musictherapy.ca

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website: hsaa.ca

Music Therapy Association for Alberta (MTAA) website: www.mtaa.ca

North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) website: www.nadta.org

Ontario Art Therapy Association (OATA) website: oata.ca

Ontario Expressive Arts Therapies Association (OEATA) website: oeata.ca

International Expressive Arts Therapies Association (IEATA) website: www.ieata.org

International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA) website: ismeta.org

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2024. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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