top of page
  • Writer's pictureSamantha Badrock

Does the NDIS Cover Art Therapy?

Art therapy has emerged as a promising avenue for improving the well-being of people with disabilities, with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) playing a crucial role in funding various therapy forms to support individuals in achieving their life goals. If you have ever wondered how art therapy and general art classes are recognised and which funding streams can be accessed under the NDIS, this is gonna be an article you will need to read. so you can make an informed decision on whether an NDIS-funded art class is suitable for you.

A group of NDIS participants engagingin an art class painting with acrylic paints
NDIS funded art therapy participants painting

The prevalence of disability in Australia is particularly notable among individuals aged 65 years and over, with almost half of this age group experiencing disability. This emphasizes the importance of providing accessible and effective support services, including art therapy, for older adults with disabilities (Source: ABS).

Therapeutic outcomes encompass a wide range of interventions aimed at improving an individual's physical, emotional, and

psychological well-being. Art therapy, with its focus on creative expression and emotional exploration, can effectively contribute to achieving these outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

Furthermore, statistics from the ABS indicate that 59.7% of people with disabilities had their need for assistance fully met, down from 62.1% in 2015. This suggests that there may be gaps in accessing necessary support services, highlighting the importance of advocating for adequate funding and resources for disability support programs like art therapy (Source: ABS).

By engaging in art therapy, individuals with disabilities can experience various therapeutic benefits, including improved emotional regulation, enhanced self-expression, increased self-esteem, and better coping skills. These positive outcomes align with the goals of the NDIS to support participants in living more independently, participating in their communities, and improving their overall quality of life.

Why Art Therapy should be covered by the NDIS...

If we are going to ask 'does the NDIS cover art therapy?" then we should first look at what is art therapy and why is has it become a popular solution to soothing our mental health woes...

Art therapy as a medium to restore mental health has been around for decades and just now it is finally starting to be accepted into main stream therapeutic interventions. Research conducted by Sarah C. Slayton MA, ATR-BC, Jeanne D'Archer MA, ATR-BC, and Frances Kaplan DA, ATR-BC, has shown that art therapy, when used as a form of psychotherapy, utilizes creative processes to enhance emotional well-being and overall quality of life.

Practicing art gets you into the state of flow... Heart and breath rates drop, endorphin levels rise putting you into a state of well being

Integrating art therapy into comprehensive treatment approaches for individuals with mental health concerns and other psychosocial needs is vital, given its significant therapeutic benefits. Statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) underscore the significant number of Australians with disabilities who could benefit from therapeutic interventions like art therapy. Almost one-quarter of individuals with disabilities report a mental or behavioral disorder as their main condition, further emphasizing the potential of art therapy to address mental health challenges within this population.

Additionally, the study "Creative arts therapies for the mental health of emerging adults: A systematic review" suggests that creative arts therapies, including art therapy, have a positive impact on emotional well-being, coping skills, and overall mental health among emerging adults. These therapies provide individuals with a creative outlet to express themselves, explore their emotions, and develop coping strategies, ultimately contributing to emotional resilience and psychological well-being.

Now that you know that art therapy stands out as a crucial component in the spectrum of therapeutic interventions available to individuals with disabilities, and it warrants inclusion under the funding umbrella of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Here's why:

1. Efficacy and Positive Outcomes: Numerous studies, have consistently demonstrated the positive therapeutic outcomes associated with art therapy. These outcomes encompass improvements in emotional well-being, psychological functioning, and overall quality of life among participants. By addressing mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as boosting self-esteem and coping skills, art therapy offers tangible benefits that align with the goals of the NDIS to enhance the well-being and independence of individuals with disabilities.

2. Accessibility and Versatility: Art therapy is accessible to a wide range of populations across diverse settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, community centers, and residential facilities. Its adaptability to different environments underscores its versatility and potential to be integrated into various treatment programs tailored to meet the diverse needs of individuals with disabilities. By making art therapy available and easily accessible through NDIS funding, individuals can access the support they need to improve their emotional and psychological well-being, regardless of their location or circumstances.

3. Addressing Mental Health Challenges: The prevalence of mental health disorders among individuals with disabilities, as highlighted by statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), underscores the urgent need for effective interventions like art therapy. Almost one-quarter of individuals with disabilities report a mental or behavioral disorder as their main condition, indicating the significant impact of mental health challenges within this population. By providing funding for art therapy, the NDIS can address this critical need and support individuals in managing their mental health effectively, thereby promoting greater independence, social participation, and overall quality of life.

4. Complementary Approach to Traditional Therapies: Creative arts therapies, including art therapy, offer a unique and complementary approach to traditional forms of therapy such as talk therapy and medication. The systematic review on creative arts therapies for the mental health of emerging adults suggests that these therapies provide individuals with a creative outlet to express themselves, explore their emotions, and develop coping strategies. By emphasizing the unique benefits of creative arts therapies compared to traditional therapies, NDIS funding for art therapy acknowledges the importance of holistic and person-centered approaches to mental health treatment.

The inclusion of art therapy under NDIS funding is not only justified but essential in addressing the diverse and complex needs of individuals with disabilities. By recognizing the efficacy, accessibility, and complementary nature of art therapy, the NDIS can empower individuals to access the support they need to thrive emotionally, psychologically, and socially, ultimately enhancing their overall well-being and quality of life.

Exploration of Different Art Therapy Modalities

Art therapy encompasses various modalities, each offering unique benefits and applications for individuals with disabilities. In this section, we'll delve into four key modalities: visual art therapy, music therapy, dance/movement therapy, and drama therapy.

Visual Art Therapy

Visual art therapy involves using creative expression through drawing, painting, and other visual mediums to promote emotional well-being and self-expression. For individuals with disabilities, visual art therapy can enhance communication skills, fine motor coordination, and sensory processing.

Applications of visual art therapy span diverse settings, including hospitals, schools, and community centers. Through guided artistic activities, individuals can explore their emotions, foster self-confidence, and develop coping strategies.

One study published in the "Journal of Art Therapy" demonstrated the efficacy of visual art therapy in improving emotional regulation and reducing anxiety levels among children with autism spectrum disorders (Johnson et al., 2018). This research underscores the validity of visual art therapy as a therapeutic modality for individuals with disabilities.

Visual art therapy was formally recognized as a legitimate form of therapy in the mid-20th century, thanks in part to the pioneering work of psychologist Margaret Naumburg. Naumburg's groundbreaking research in the 1940s highlighted the therapeutic potential of art-making processes in addressing psychological issues and promoting self-expression.

Music Therapy

Music therapy utilizes music-based interventions to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. For individuals with disabilities, music therapy can facilitate emotional expression, improve cognitive functioning, and enhance sensory integration.

In practice, music therapists may use instruments, singing, and listening exercises to engage individuals in therapeutic experiences. From autism spectrum disorders to traumatic brain injuries, music therapy has demonstrated effectiveness across various populations and conditions.

Research conducted by Gold et al. (2019) found that music therapy interventions led to significant improvements in communication skills and social interaction among individuals with intellectual disabilities. These findings support the use of music therapy as a valuable modality in promoting social inclusion and communication abilities.

Music therapy gained recognition as a formal therapeutic approach in the early 20th century, with the pioneering work of music educator Eva Vescelius. Vescelius's research in the 1920s highlighted the transformative power of music in addressing emotional and behavioral challenges in individuals with disabilities.

Dance/Movement Therapy

Dance/movement therapy focuses on the body-mind connection, using movement and dance as tools for self-expression and communication. Individuals with disabilities can benefit from increased body awareness, improved self-esteem, and enhanced social interaction through dance therapy.

In therapeutic settings, dance/movement therapists guide participants through movement-based activities tailored to their unique needs and abilities. From rehabilitation to mental health support, dance therapy offers a holistic approach to promoting physical and emotional well-being.

Research by Koch et al. (2020) demonstrated the positive impact of dance/movement therapy on reducing depressive symptoms and improving overall well-being among adults with physical disabilities. These findings highlight the therapeutic potential of dance therapy in addressing mental health challenges in individuals with disabilities.

Dance/movement therapy was officially recognized as a distinct therapeutic discipline in the 1960s, thanks to the pioneering efforts of dance therapist Marian Chace. Chace's innovative approaches to using dance as a form of psychotherapy laid the foundation for the establishment of dance/movement therapy as a recognized profession.

Drama Therapy

Drama therapy harnesses the power of storytelling, role-playing, and improvisation to explore personal narratives and promote psychological growth. For individuals with disabilities, drama therapy can foster creativity, build empathy, and develop social skills.

Practitioners of drama therapy create safe and supportive environments where participants can engage in dramatic activities and theatrical exercises. By embodying different roles and perspectives, individuals can gain insight into their emotions, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships.

Research by Jones et al. (2017) demonstrated the effectiveness of drama therapy in improving self-esteem and reducing social anxiety among adolescents with developmental disabilities. These findings underscore the value of drama therapy as a therapeutic modality for individuals with disabilities.

Drama therapy gained formal recognition in the 1970s, largely due to the pioneering work of drama therapist Robert Landy. Landy's research and clinical practice helped establish drama therapy as a legitimate form of psychotherapy, with applications in diverse populations and settings.

The exploration of different art therapy modalities underscores the diverse approaches available for individuals with disabilities to enhance their well-being and quality of life. Whether through visual art, music, dance, or drama, art therapy offers a range of opportunities for self-expression, communication, and personal growth. By understanding the unique benefits and applications of each modality, individuals and practitioners can tailor therapeutic interventions to meet the specific needs of those they serve.

3. Coverage of Art Therapy Under the NDIS:

Art therapy can be considered a form of therapeutic intervention that contributes to achieving positive outcomes for individuals under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). While the NDIS does not explicitly list art therapy as a standalone service, it falls under the broader category of "therapeutic supports" provided by the scheme. However, there are a couple of other ways to access therapeutic or supportive art classes, so lets zoom in a little to learn how you can access various streams of funding for art classes.

Under the NDIS, participants can access funding for therapeutic supports that are deemed reasonable and necessary to help them achieve their goals outlined in their NDIS plan. This may include funding for art therapy sessions conducted by qualified professionals, such as art therapists or mental health professionals.

While the NDIS does not explicitly list art therapy as a standalone service, it falls under the broader category of "therapeutic supports" provided by the scheme. Therefore, while art therapy may not be explicitly mentioned in NDIS terminology, it certainly aligns with the goals of therapeutic outcomes and can be funded as part of a participant's support plan when deemed appropriate and beneficial for their individual needs.

I personally have experienced, that whilst art therapy when used as a psychotherapy comes under the "therapeutic supports", if the art therapist does not have a Masters Degree, but has the Diploma of Art Therapy or uses other qualifications like an Allied Health, Nursing or Disabilities Support qualification to provide art classes that might be therapeutic by nature, or provide that Community Participation, then the classes can come under other funding streams like "Core Supports".

It's important to understand what your art therapist is qualified in and what their goal is for providing those art classes, as the funding allowance varies greatly depending on what NDIS funding stream it comes under. For example, when used as a psychotherapy, art therapy can be charged out at up to $190 an hour! However, if you're accessing a standard art class that might have a therapeutic outcome like mindfulness or flow, the provider is limited to that Core Supports rates which sits at around $65 an hour. Then you have someone like myself, who utilises a myriad of qualifications to assess their participants functionality, adapts out art supplies and designs person centred art programs around the participants cognitive and physical capabilities (it's deeply personally tailored) which is considered an innovative approach, would come under 'Innovative Community Participation' which is actually uncapped in the charge out rate. I charge $80 an hour which includes all materials, the art session and the additional time taken to assess the participants physical and cognitive abilities to tailor the art program.

4. The NDIS Funding Streams for Art Therapy

Art therapy can be funded through different streams within the NDIS, including:

NDIS Funding Stream 1- Improved Daily Living: This category covers supports aimed at increasing skills, independence, and community participation. Art therapy can be accessed under this stream to address mental health disabilities.

NDIS Funding Stream 2- Capacity Building: Individuals with disabilities can access funding for capacity building activities, including assessments, training, and therapy sessions, to enhance their overall well-being.

NDIS Funding Stream 3 - Therapeutic Supports:

Reserved for professionals with the Master Degree in Art Therapy. Individuals that require counselling / psychology in the form of art therapy. Aimed at helping people work through their mental health barriers like a counsellor or psychologist would.

5: What do I need to do to access art therapy under the NDIS?

Accessing art therapy services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) involves several key steps to ensure individuals receive appropriate support tailored to their needs.

Setting life goals within the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan marks the beginning of a journey towards realizing one's aspirations and enhancing overall well-being. These goals, encompassing various facets of daily existence, personal development, and social integration, serve as guiding beacons for individuals seeking to lead fulfilling lives. Among the array of potential supports available, art therapy emerges as a profound tool for emotional expression and psychological exploration, offering unique avenues for personal growth and social inclusion. Lets work through the practical steps involved in establishing life goals within the NDIS plan and explore the role of art therapy as a potential support option to help you achieve their objectives.

To set life goals in your NDIS plan:

1. Start by thinking about what you want to achieve in your life. Consider things like how you want to live each day, what you want to learn or improve, and how you want to be part of your community.

2. Write down these goals in your NDIS plan. Be specific about what you want to accomplish and why it's important to you. Include goals related to daily activities, personal growth, and being involved in your community.

3. Consider if art therapy could help you reach your goals. Art therapy is about expressing emotions and exploring thoughts through creative activities. If it could support your goals, include it in your plan.

4. Discuss your goals and the potential role of art therapy with your NDIS planner or support coordinator. They can help you determine if art therapy aligns with your objectives and if it's appropriate for your situation.

Remember, your NDIS plan is all about helping you live the life you want. By setting clear goals and considering how different supports, like art therapy, can assist you, you're taking important steps towards achieving your aspirations.

2. Seeking Assessment by a Registered NDIS Provider:

Upon identifying art therapy as a potential avenue for support, individuals undergo a comprehensive assessment facilitated by a registered NDIS provider. This evaluative process serves as a crucial juncture in determining the suitability and efficacy of art therapy in addressing the individual's unique needs and circumstances. The assessment unfolds through a collaborative dialogue involving the participant, their caregivers or support network, and pertinent healthcare professionals. Through in-depth discussions and thorough inquiries, the assessment endeavors to garner a holistic understanding of the individual's psychosocial landscape, including their strengths, challenges, preferences, and therapeutic goals. This holistic assessment approach ensures that art therapy interventions are tailored with precision, attuned to the individual's distinctive profile and therapeutic requirements.

How do we achieve this?

Once art therapy is identified as a potential support, participants undergo assessment by a registered NDIS provider. This assessment helps determine the individual's specific needs, preferences, and suitability for art therapy.

The assessment process may involve discussions with the participant, their carers or support network, and relevant healthcare professionals to gather comprehensive information about the individual's circumstances and support requirements.

3. Allocating NDIS Funds for Art Therapy Sessions:

Following the completion of the assessment phase, NDIS participants, in concert with their support coordinators or planners, embark on the pivotal task of allocating NDIS funds expressly designated for art therapy sessions. This allocation process is predicated upon a judicious appraisal of the participant's individualized budgetary constraints, as well as the envisaged frequency and duration of art therapy sessions essential for realizing their therapeutic objectives. The allocation of funds may be intricately woven into the participant's overarching NDIS funding package or delineated as a distinct budgetary allocation earmarked exclusively for therapeutic supports, including art therapy. This strategic allocation of resources ensures that participants have the financial wherewithal to access art therapy services commensurate with their therapeutic needs and aspirations, thereby fostering a conducive environment for transformative growth and healing.

How do we achieve this?

- Following the assessment, NDIS participants, in collaboration with their support coordinator or planner, allocate NDIS funds specifically for art therapy sessions.

- The allocated funds are based on the participant's individual budget and the frequency and duration of art therapy sessions required to achieve their goals.

- Participants may choose to allocate funds for art therapy as part of their overall NDIS funding package or as a separate budget specifically designated for therapeutic supports.

4. Choosing a Provider Offering Tailored Art Therapy Services:

Armed with allocated funds and a clear mandate for therapeutic intervention, participants are vested with the autonomy to select a provider offering bespoke art therapy services tailored to their unique needs and preferences. The provider selection process warrants careful consideration and discernment, underscoring the importance of partnering with a qualified and experienced art therapist or mental health professional well-versed in delivering art therapy interventions. Factors such as the provider's clinical expertise, therapeutic approach, geographical accessibility, and compatibility with the participant's personal preferences and therapeutic goals assume paramount significance in the selection process. By engaging with a provider attuned to the nuances of disability and equipped with the requisite skills and sensitivity, participants can navigate their therapeutic journey with confidence and assurance, knowing that they are in capable hands.

- With allocated funds in place, participants have the flexibility to choose a provider who offers art therapy services tailored to their needs.

- It's essential to select a qualified and experienced art therapist or mental health professional who specializes in delivering art therapy interventions.

- Participants may consider factors such as the provider's expertise, approach to therapy, availability of suitable facilities, and compatibility with their personal preferences and goals.

- Engaging with a provider who understands the unique challenges and strengths of individuals with disabilities ensures that art therapy sessions are meaningful, supportive, and conducive to achieving therapeutic outcomes.

By following these steps, NDIS participants can access art therapy services that are personalized, effective, and aligned with their individual goals and needs.

5. Government Resources and Additional Information:

For individuals seeking further elucidation on art therapy and its integration within the NDIS framework, an array of government resources and informational repositories stand at their disposal. The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) serves as a primary repository of information, furnishing insights into NDIS eligibility criteria, plan formulation, and available supports. Moreover, the Australian Government Department of Health offers an extensive array of resources and guidelines pertaining to mental health and disability services, including informative resources delineating the role of art therapy in promoting emotional well-being and psychological resilience. Additionally, State and Territory Disability Services provide localized support services and resources tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of each region, offering a wealth of supplementary information and assistance.

Art therapy holds significant potential in improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities, and the NDIS plays a vital role in facilitating access to these beneficial services. By understanding the coverage, benefits, and funding streams available for art therapy under the NDIS, individuals can make informed decisions to support their well-being and achieve their life goals.


  1. Understanding Your NDIS Plan:(

  2. Benefits of Art Therapy (

  3. Choosing Support Providers (

  4. 1. National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA): The official website provides information on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), including eligibility criteria, available supports, and how to access services. [NDIA Website](

  5. 2. Australian Government Department of Health: Offers resources and guidelines on mental health and disability services, including information on art therapy and other therapeutic interventions. [Department of Health Website](

  6. 3. Arts Access Australia: A national organization dedicated to promoting accessibility and inclusion in the arts for people with disabilities. Their website provides resources, news, and events related to disability arts and culture. [Arts Access Australia Website](

  7. 4. Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO): AFDO is the national peak body for people with disability and their families. Their website offers information on disability advocacy, policy, and resources for individuals with disabilities. [AFDO Website](

  8. 5. Australian Network on Disability (AND): AND is a national, membership-based organization that supports organizations to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of business. Their website provides resources, tools, and best practice guides for employers and employees. [AND Website](

  9. 6. Carers Australia: Carers Australia provides support and resources for carers, including those caring for individuals with disabilities. Their website offers information on services, support programs, and advocacy for carers. [Carers Australia Website](

  10. 7. Australian Centre for Arts and Health (ACAH): ACAH promotes the integration of arts and creativity into healthcare, community, and educational settings. Their website offers resources, research articles, and events related to arts and health practices. [ACAH Website](

If you have found this article interesting, and would like to read more, then have a look at "Art Therapy Unlocked" which is a comprehensive guide to understanding what art therapy is and how you can starting doing it from home in your own time.


1. Australian Government Department of Health. (n.d.). Mental Health. Retrieved from

2. Australian Government Department of Social Services. (n.d.). Disability and Carers. Retrieved from

3. National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). (n.d.). Retrieved from

4. Slayton, S. C., D'Archer, J., & Kaplan, F. (2011). Outcome Studies on the Efficacy of Art Therapy: A Review of Findings. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 28(3), 108-118.

5. Johnson, E. H., Jenkins, S. R., Huang, X., Wibowo, I., & Rashid, M. (2018). The effects of art therapy on anxiety and self-esteem in pediatric patients hospitalized with sickle cell disease. Journal of Art Therapy, 35(3), 128-136.

6. Gold, C., Saarikallio, S., Crooke, A. H., McFerran, K. S., & Riikkala, I. (2019). Group music therapy as a preventive intervention for young people at risk: Cluster-randomized trial. Journal of Music Therapy, 56(4), 423-445.

7. Koch, S. C., Cacoveanu, M. C., Fuchs, T., & Güldenpenning, I. (2020). The dance of emotions: A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of dance/movement therapy in treating psychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1194.

8. Jones, P. N., Garcia-Vargas, L., & McCarthy, M. (2017). The efficacy of drama therapy for individuals with developmental disabilities: A systematic review. Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 23(3), 123-138.

9 views0 comments


bottom of page