Art Therapy Courses and Degrees

Art therapists are required to earn a master's degree in the field and need to obtain licensure or certification to be eligible to practice in several states. Courses are based in both the art and psychology disciplines. Continue reading for examples of coursework and more information on this career. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Art therapists typically help patients in a hospital or similar setting who have been through psychological or physical trauma. A master's degree focusing on therapeutic techniques, human growth and development, art history and theory, and psychopathology is required. After graduating you will have the choice to become a board certified art therapist.

Degree MBA required; doctoral degree programs also available
Training May learn artwork analysis, counseling, psychopathology, family systems and relationships; 700 hours of supervised clinical practice required
Certification Registered art therapist credential required; art therapist board certification optional

How Will I Help People Using Art Therapy?

You can help patients reduce depression, socialize effectively and recover fine motor skills through art therapy. You encourage them to channel their creativity and self-expression to resolve conflicts and manage anxiety over causes such as abuse, family strife, substance abuse, disability, post-traumatic stress and mental illness. Good listening skills and empathy enables you to understand your patients and formulate treatment appropriate to their personal needs.

In a hospital setting, you may work with a team of doctors to help your patients recover from injury or illness. In addition to hospitals, you may work in rehabilitative facilities, homeless shelters or in private practice.

What Type of Degree Do I Need?

A master's degree is the entry-level requirement to work as an art therapist. You can find many master's programs accredited by the American Art Therapy Association; doctoral programs are also available to enhance professional art therapists' talents.

Programs teach you to combine therapeutic techniques with art theory. You learn methods used to counsel children, adolescents and groups. You also explore composition and basic art techniques. The curriculum might cover topics like psychopathology, family systems and relationships, cultural diversity, artwork analysis and mindfulness practices. In addition to your coursework, you are required to complete a minimum of 700 hours of supervised clinical practice to graduate.

How Can I Prepare for My Master's Degree?

Prerequisites include a combination of studio art and psychology courses. Studying child psychology or developmental psychology gives you a foundation for graduate studies. Your school may also require an art portfolio for admissions, so taking undergraduate courses in drawing, painting and other visual arts subjects can benefit you. Furthermore, you can find pre-professional art therapy bachelor's degree programs that prepare you for master's studies.

Do I Need a License or Certification?

Depending on the state where you practice, you may be required to have a license as a therapist. Additionally, you may choose to be licensed in a closely related field, like counseling. Once you have obtained your master's degree and completed 1,000 hours of direct patient work, you're eligible to become a registered art therapist (ATR). This credential shows employers and patients that you have a minimum standard of education and experience. You then qualify to take an exam to become a board certified art therapist (ATR-BC). Certification is voluntary.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • George Mason University

    George Mason University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at George Mason University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • American University

    American University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at American University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Widener University

    Widener University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Widener University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Saint Joseph's University

    Saint Joseph's University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Saint Joseph's University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Colorado Technical University

    Colorado Technical University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado Technical University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Steiner Education Group

    Steiner Education Group responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Steiner Education Group:

    • Certificates

    Campus Locations:

    • Maryland: Linthicum
  • University of Saint Mary

    University of Saint Mary responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at University of Saint Mary:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

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