Bachelor's Degree Programs in Art Therapy
The field of art therapy exists to use the creative process as a tool in mental health treatment. Continue reading to learn more about the field, what you'll learn in an art therapy program and whether you will need additional training after completing your bachelor's degree. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy combines creative practices with psychological theory to create a unique system of therapy. This can mean anything from developing specific creative projects for a patient with an eating disorder to allowing patients with post-traumatic stress disorder to work through their experiences by making drawings. As an art therapist, you can work to help patients solve, cope with or manage psychological problems such as cognitive disorders, stress, low self-esteem, addiction, depression and emotional trauma from abuse.
According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), the formal practice of art therapy began in the 1940s. The discipline developed because psychiatrists and other mental health professionals began to notice a correlation between artistic expression and emotional growth. The AATA says that today, art therapists can be found practicing in hospitals, rehab centers and clinics, serving clients of all ages (www.arttherapy.org).
What Will I Learn?
Curricula for bachelor's degree programs in art therapy typically include a mix of psychology and studio art coursework. Some programs also include art history courses and art therapy-specific classes. Typical psychology topics covered include abnormal psychology, development across lifespan and creative functioning. Art coursework typically comprises studio practice in media like drawing and painting. Discipline-specific classes usually focus on the theory and practice of art therapy, and will introduce you to the history and foundations of the discipline. You may also take classes to help you recognize specific disorders and what kind of artistic expression may be best for those patients.
In addition to this coursework, art therapy bachelor's degree programs usually include general education classes in topics like history, lab science, math and composition. You will also likely be required to take an internship, practicum or other form of hands-on fieldwork experience in art therapy. Depending on the school, this experience may be conducted on-campus or in the office of an approved local art therapist.
Will I Need Additional Education?
Bachelor's degree programs in art therapy are not as common as master's degree programs in the field, and are very rarely available through online programs. While a bachelor's degree in art therapy may enable you to take jobs as an art therapy assistant, art teacher, private art tutor or nanny, the AATA says that you will need to earn a master's degree in order to be a fully-fledged art therapist. Master's degree programs in art therapy often accept students with bachelor's degrees in art, psychology or art therapy. They will usually ask that you have taken some specific classes, like child psychology or figure drawing. Some schools even offer a joint bachelor's and master's degree program, allowing you to earn your bachelor's degree in art or psychology and your master's degree in art therapy. These programs typically take about five years to complete.
After completion of appropriate graduate coursework and supervised art therapy experience, you can become a registered art therapist (ATR). ATRs can become board certified (ATR-BC) after passing a written exam. The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) administers these credentials (www.atcb.org). The AATA reports that licensure is required for art therapists in Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Texas. Some states include art therapists in the category of mental health professional, allowing licensure as a counselor or therapist, according to the AATA.
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