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Arts and creative therapies

Explains what arts and creative therapies are, the different types that exist and how to access them.

How can I access arts and creative therapies?

Arts and creative therapies aren't always easy to access, and what services are available often depends on where you live. You may be able to access arts and creative therapies through:

Things to ask before starting a therapy

You may want to ask your therapist (or the person referring you for therapy) about:

  • their background and qualifications
  • the type of therapy they practise
  • if they have a specialism (for example, some therapists specialise in working with particular issues or groups)
  • their experience of working with the problem or difficulty you're experiencing
  • whether there is a waiting list and how long it will take you to get an appointment
  • how long the therapy will last and what you can expect from it
  • if you should wear a particular type of clothes or shoes (for example, wearing loose comfortable clothes you can easily move in)
  • the benefits and risks involved
  • what happens if you cancel or miss a session
  • their confidentiality policy
  • if you have a disability and need reasonable adjustments to make the sessions easier for you to attend or take part in.

It's also important to mention any special requirements or preferences you have. For example, if you'd feel most comfortable seeing a therapist of a particular gender, or who speaks your first language, or has a particular specialism.

Our pages on talking therapies have more information about starting a therapy, including getting the most from therapy.

"When I feel sad, picking up my violin, feeling it nestling against me and playing a tune takes me on a journey and I come back much better."


In some areas, you may be able to access arts and creative therapies through the NHS as part of a mental health service, either in the community or as part of the treatment provided if you spend time in hospital. However, this varies from area to area.

Your GP or community mental health team (CMHT) should be able to tell you what's available in your area. They may be able to refer you to a local service.

For more information about speaking to your GP, see our guide to seeking help for a mental health problem.

Third sector services

Some community and third sector (charity) organisations offer arts therapies, including some local Minds and specialist charities like Nordoff Robbins (which provides music therapy) and Roundabout Dramatherapy.

These kinds of services aren't always easy to find, so it's worth asking around.

"I had art therapy as part of a combination of therapies for six months as part of a group... It was really interesting to look back at the end at how our art work had changed as we got more used to the experience, and with different thoughts and feelings."

Private sector

You can also access arts therapies privately, although this can sometimes be expensive. Private therapists may offer one-to-one or group sessions.

You can find details of accredited therapists in your area by searching the register of the relevant professional body for each type of therapy:

You could also try searching the Counselling Directory website to find accredited arts and creative therapists near you.

For more information on accessing therapies privately, see our page on seeking help through the private sector.

What can I do if I'm not happy with my treatment?

If you have a serious concern about any treatment you've received, you can complain.

Your therapist should tell you their complaints process if you ask them for it. If that doesn't feel possible you could ask your therapist what professional body they're registered with, then make your complaint through that body (all professional bodies should have a complaints procedure you can follow).

See our legal pages on complaining about health and social care for more information about your rights.

"Art therapy allows you to express those feelings that you can either not find words to explain or are simply too difficult to even attempt to. Then you can talk through the image with your therapist and communicate through it, taking the pressure off yourself. The connection with your therapist becomes even stronger."

This information was published in November 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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