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New York Health Careers

Creative Arts Therapists

What Do Creative Arts Therapists Do?

Creative arts therapists use active engagement in art, dance or movement, drama, and music as therapeutic approaches to address mental, emotional, developmental, and behavioral disorders of their clients. Creative arts therapists work with individuals of all ages who may have a variety of mental or physical health issues, including those who are temporarily or permanently disabled. Creative arts therapists, working with clients one-on-one or in groups, strive to use creative processes to bring out artistic self-expression to help people resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. Creative art therapy is also used to help people manage stress and promote overall mental and physical well-being.

Creative arts therapists are often part of a larger multidisciplinary rehabilitation team coordinating to develop and implement a client’s therapeutic goals and objectives. Using their skills in art, dance or movement, drama, and music in conjunction with psychotherapeutic theories and methods, creative arts therapists are able to elicit thoughts and feelings from clients to supplement traditional “talk” psychotherapeutic methods. Creative arts therapy uses the relationship between the patient and the therapist in the context of the artistic process as a dynamic force for change and expression.

Where Do Creative Arts Therapists Work?

Creative arts therapists work in a number of institutional and community settings, including hospitals; nursing homes; correctional institutions; adult shelters; schools; community centers; adolescent, substance abuse, and mental health group homes or half-way houses; and adult day care programs. Creative arts therapists usually work a 40-hour week, though they may work some evenings and weekends to account for working with the different populations they serve in non-traditional settings.

How Much Do Creative Arts Therapists Earn?

In 2022, the average annual income reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for recreational therapists in the United States was $56,310. The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) reports that, in 2023, recreational therapists in New York earned a median annual salary of $63,832 (recreational therapists in the 25th percentile made approximately $47,457 while those in the 75th percentile made approximately $74,733).

Supply and Demand

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of recreational therapy jobs in the U.S. will increase by 4% between 2021 and 2031. The New York State Department of Labor projects that the number of recreational therapy jobs in the state will increase by 17% between 2020 and 2030.

New York Educational Requirements

For creative arts therapists, an undergraduate college education should include coursework in both creative arts and psychopathology, with specific courses in general, developmental, and abnormal psychology. Some colleges may offer an undergraduate degree in creative arts therapy, but a master’s degree or doctorate degree in creative arts therapy or substantial equivalent is required for licensure in New York. Advanced degree programs include additional coursework in fine arts, psychotherapy, and clinical internships.  All creative arts therapy programs are going through an accreditation process, with some newly accredited and some going through the process. If the program is not accredited, go to the following link to ensure the program is registered with New York State: http://www.nysed.gov/heds/IRPSL1.html.

New York Licensure Requirements

To be licensed in New York as a creative arts therapist, an individual must have a master’s or doctorate degree in creative arts therapy from a registered, accredited program, or its equivalent and at least 1,500 hours of supervised experience in an approved setting. In addition, an individual must pass one of three exams: the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) test, the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) test, or the New York State Case Narrative Exam. For more information on New York State licensure requirements, go to: http://www.op.nysed.gov/professions/creative-arts-therapists/license-requirements.

Financial Support

In addition to school-based scholarships, scholarships for undergraduate and graduate education are available through national organizations:

for art therapists: http://www.americanarttherapyassociation.org/aata-awards/;

for music therapists: http://www.musictherapy.org/careers/scholars/; and

for dance therapists: https://www.adta.org/encouraging-scholarship.

Education Programs in New York (subject to change)

The following programs offer bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in one or more of the creative arts therapies:

Hofstra University
Creative Arts Therapy
1000 Hempstead Turnpike
Hempstead, NY 11549
(516) 463-6600
Long Island University
C.W. Post Campus
Clinical Art Therapy
720 Northern Boulevard
Brooklville, NY 11548
(516) 299-2999
Molloy University
Music Therapy
1000 Hempstead Avenue
Rockville Centre, NY 11571
(516) 323-3000
Nazareth College
Creative Arts Therapy
4245 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14618
(585) 389-2525
NYU Steinhardt
Art Therapy
34 Stuyvesant Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 998-5700
Pratt Institute
Creative Arts Therapy Dept.
200 Willoughby Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 636-3600
St Thomas Aquinas College
Art Therapy
125 Route 340
Sparkill, NY 10976
(845) 398-4100
SUNY at Fredonia
Music Therapy
280 Central Ave.
Fredonia, NY 14063
(716) 673-3111
Buffalo State- SUNY
Art Therapy
1300 Elmwood Ave
Buffalo, NY 14222
(716) 878-4106
School of Visual Arts
Art Therapy
132 West 21st St., 3rd floor
New York, NY 10010
(212) 592-2000
Russell Sage College
Creative Arts in Therapy
65 1st Street
Troy, NY 12180
(518) 244-2000
SUNY Plattsburgh
Art Therapy
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(518) 564-2000

Additional Web Links

For more information on creative arts therapists, go to:

American Art Therapy Association: http://www.arttherapy.org

American Music Therapy Association: http://www.musictherapy.org

North American Drama Therapy Association: http://www.nadta.org

New York Art Therapy Association: http://www.nyarttherapy.org.

National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Association: http://www.nccata.org

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