Skip to the main content
This website uses cookies to give you a better online experience. By using this website or closing this message, you are agreeing to our cookie policy. More information
Alberta Supports Contact Centre

Toll Free 1-877-644-9992

Guest Account Sign In Sign Up

Creative Arts Therapist

Creative arts therapists use artistic media to help clients maintain and improve their physical and mental health by recognizing and developing often untapped inner resources.

  • Avg. Salary $49,234.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.38
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Art Therapist, Dance Therapist, Drama Therapist, Expressive Arts Therapists, Music Therapist, Rehabilitation Services Practitioner, Therapist

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: Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment (3144) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment (D044) 
  • 2011 NOC: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment (3144) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary
Interest Codes
The Creative Arts Therapist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment

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


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


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

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 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 More

Updated Mar 30, 2015

Creative arts therapists use creative, artistic approaches to:

  • treat mental and physical illnesses
  • support individuals who have disabilities
  • promote wellness, creativity and personal growth.

They provide a supportive environment and therapeutic approaches that capitalize on non-verbal processes to facilitate personal or interpersonal awareness and therapeutic change. They also help people who have difficulty expressing themselves due to physical, emotional or other limitations. For example, children often can approach difficult issues more easily and convey messages more clearly through the creation of art than they can with words.

Creative arts therapists may use visual art, dance, drama or music, or a combination of arts.

  • Art therapists use art in treatment, assessment and research. They provide therapeutic services for individuals and groups of people of all ages, and act as consultants for other mental health professionals.
  • Dance therapists focus on the non-verbal aspects of behaviour by encouraging clients to use creative and expressive movement to address emotional issues and improve emotional and physical health.
  • Drama therapists use drama, creative play, psychodrama, role play, improvisation and theatre to further clients' emotional growth and integration.
  • Music therapists use techniques such as improvisation, guided imagery and relaxation to help people connect to themselves and others, and achieve therapeutic goals. They use sound, music and rhythm to actively or passively engage clients in the therapeutic process.

For each client or group of clients, therapists:

  • assess client needs and strengths
  • identify specific treatment goals and objectives
  • choose an appropriate approach and develop a treatment program
  • implement programs or strategies that involve music, art, drama and/or dance activities
  • evaluate the program's effectiveness on an ongoing basis
  • adjust programs as needed.

As members of therapeutic teams or as private practitioners, creative arts therapists work closely with other professionals (for example, psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers and counsellors).

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 30, 2015

Creative arts therapists often work standard office hours in settings such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, community agencies and prisons. They may work in private practices and work some evenings or weekends.

All therapies require a specific, safe environment. Depending on the setting and client group, art therapists may remove toxic art supplies or sharp instruments such as scissors for safety reasons.

Music therapists may be required to lift and carry instruments and other equipment that weighs up to 20 kilograms.

  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 30, 2015

 Creative arts therapists need the following characteristics:

  • creativity
  • enthusiasm
  • a non-judgmental attitude
  • strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • flexibility and a tolerance for ambiguity
  • initiative.

They should enjoy working with people, designing and implementing innovative therapy programs and employing artistic techniques.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 30, 2015

Art, dance and drama therapists need an approved master's degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Admission to appropriate master's degree programs generally requires a four year degree in psychology or a related discipline, and a strong background in art, dance or drama.

Required Education

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

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

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

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

No master's degree program in dance therapy is offered in Canada. Certification by the American Dance Therapy Association requires a master's degree with specified dance/movement therapy courses, at least five years of concentrated study in dance, 200 hours of fieldwork and a 700 hour internship.

Concordia University  in Montreal offers a drama therapy program that includes some dance and movement therapy courses. Certification by the National Association for Drama Therapy requires a master's degree in drama therapy from an NADT approved program (or a master's degree in a related field and completion of specified education requirements), 500 hours of drama/theatre experience, 500 hours of additional training/experience, and completion of a 300 hour internship.

To qualify for accreditation by the Canadian Association for Music Therapy, music therapists must:

  • be well-rounded musicians
  • have successfully completed a four year bachelor's degree program in music therapy
  • have successfully completed a 1000 hour internship under the supervision of qualified music therapists.

Bachelor degree programs in music therapy are offered by:

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 30, 2015

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 30, 2015

Creative arts therapists work with children and adults in a variety of settings:

  • rehabilitation facilities
  • hospitals
  • schools
  • prisons and other correctional facilities
  • private practice
  • community mental health facilities
  • senior centres and nursing homes
  • day-care centres
  • counselling centres and clinics.

Creative arts therapists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 3144: Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the Health Care and Social Assistance (PDF) industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 30, 2015

Incomes for creative arts therapists generally are comparable to other mental health professionals who have similar qualifications (for example, psychologists, social workers).

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

Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $19.84 $38.05 $24.81 $20.67
Overall $20.50 $44.45 $29.38 $25.64
Top $21.50 $53.65 $39.28 $41.03

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.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Public Administration
Educational Services
Health Care & Social Assistance

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

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 30, 2015

American Art Therapy Association (AATA) website:

American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) website:

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

British Columbia Art Therapy Association (BCATA) website:

Canadian Art Therapy Association (CATA) website:

Canadian Association for Music Therapy (CAMT) website:

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website:

Music Therapy Association of Alberta (MTAA) website:

National Association for Drama Therapy (NADT) website:

Ontario Art Therapy Association (OATA) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 30, 2015. 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.

Was this page useful?