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Creative Arts Therapist

Creative arts therapists use artistic media to help clients maintain and improve their physical and mental health. This therapy helps people recognize and develop their inner resources.

Also Known As

Art Therapist, Dance Therapist, Drama Therapist, Expressive Arts Therapist, 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) 
  • 2016 NOC: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment (3144) 
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


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

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


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

Updated Dec 31, 2018

Creative arts therapists use creative approaches to:

  • Treat mental and physical illnesses
  • Support people who have disabilities
  • Promote wellness, creativity, and personal growth

Creative arts therapists help people who have trouble expressing themselves due to physical, emotional, or other barriers. For example, many children can convey messages more clearly by creating art than by speaking.

Creative arts therapists provide a supportive setting. They often use non-verbal processes to improve clients’ awareness. They may use visual art, dance, drama, or music. Or they may use a combination of arts.

  • Art therapists use visual art to assess and treat clients. They also use it in research. They provide therapy to individuals and groups of all ages. They may also be consultants for other mental health professionals.
  • Dance therapists focus on non-verbal behaviour. They encourage clients to use creative, expressive movement to address emotional issues.
  • Drama therapists use creative play, psychodrama, role play, improvisation, and theatre to help clients with emotional growth.
  • Music therapists use active and receptive music making to help clients process emotions, achieve physical goals, and develop coping strategies. Active music includes singing, instrument playing, improvisation, and song writing. Receptive music includes listening, guided imagery, and relaxation.

For each client or group of clients, therapists:

  • Assess needs and strengths
  • Identify treatment goals
  • Choose an approach and develop a treatment program
  • Use programs or strategies that involve music, art, drama, dance, or a combination
  • Continually assess whether the program is working
  • Adjust programs as needed, like transposing pieces of music to suit the vocal range of the client

Whether they are members of teams or work in private practice, creative arts therapists work closely with other professionals. These include psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, and counsellors.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 31, 2018
  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary

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

All therapies require clients to feel safe. Depending on the setting and client, art therapists may remove toxic art supplies or sharp tools such as scissors.

Music therapists may be required to lift and carry instruments and other equipment.

Traits & Skills
Updated Dec 31, 2018

Creative arts therapists need:

  • Creativity and the ability to improvise
  • Enthusiasm
  • A non-judgmental attitude
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Flexibility
  • A tolerance for ambiguity
  • Initiative

They should enjoy:

  • Working with people
  • Designing and running innovative therapy programs while using artistic techniques

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment
NOC code: 3144

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 28 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Nov 03, 2021 and May 16, 2022.

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.
Interview patients and review reports from health care professionals to determine patients' current and potential functioning levels
Record observations, write progress reports and consult with other health care professionals to evaluate treatment plans
Design specialized therapy programs to maintain, rehabilitate or enhance movement, musculoskeletal functioning and performance in sports, work and recreation
Prepare a treatment plan for each patient
Observe and analyze patients during treatment sessions
Initiate, design and implement specialized therapy programs
Implement treatment plans
Conduct research in the field of specialization
Area of Specialization: Recreational therapy
Personal Suitability: Effective interpersonal skills
Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 31, 2018
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary

Creative arts therapists typically need a master’s degree in art therapy or similar field. An equivalent combination of education and experience may also be considered.

Admission to master’s degree programs generally requires a 4-year degree in psychology or a related discipline and a strong background in art, dance, music, or drama.

Music therapists must have competency in their primary instrument as well as basic piano, guitar, and vocal skills.

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.

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 therapy programs are offered by the:

Concordia University in Montreal offers a master’s program for drama therapy that includes dance and movement therapy.

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 Dec 31, 2018
  • Certification Not Regulated

Music therapy is regulated in some provinces and is currently in the process of getting regulated in Alberta.

However, voluntary certification may be available.

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 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
Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 31, 2018

Creative arts therapists may work in:

  • Rehabilitation centres
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Prisons and other correctional facilities
  • Private practice
  • Community mental health centres
  • Seniors’ centres and nursing homes
  • Daycare centres
  • Counselling centres and clinics

Many music therapists work as private contractors.

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 [pdf] in this occupation is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • 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 Dec 31, 2018

Incomes for creative arts therapists generally are comparable to other mental health professionals with similar qualifications, like psychologists and social workers.

Many music therapists work as private contractors and typically include factors such as travel time, 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
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2019 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.

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.

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.68 $76.09 $37.84 $35.81
Overall $17.77 $87.82 $44.90 $42.63
Top $20.91 $101.29 $49.98 $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
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 Dec 31, 2018

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 of Music Therapists (CAMT) website:

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website:

Music Therapy Association for Alberta (MTAA) website:

North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) website:

Ontario Art Therapy Association (OATA) website:

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

Updated Dec 31, 2018. 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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