What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapists work with patients to help them recognize and creatively express their thoughts or emotions and enhance their mental well-being. Professionals in this field need both artistic talent and counseling skills. Continue reading to learn more about art therapy's applications and to get some basic career information. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

About Art Therapy

According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), art therapy is based on the theory that the creative process can help patients resolve psychological conflicts and work through their emotions. As an art therapist, you'll encourage patients to creatively express themselves through painting, drawing, sculpture and other visual art forms and then analyze their work, incorporating theories related to symbolism, non-verbal communication and psychotherapy. By exploring images and the subconscious, art therapists treat patients of all ages with various mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, trauma and neurological disorders. Many hospitals, clinical facilities and public health organizations include art therapy programs among their options for treatment.

Important Facts About Art Therapists

Median Salary (2015) $40,962
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 12% growth (for all recreational therapists)
Key Skills Empathy; patience; creativity; clear speaking ability; leadership; close listening
Similar Occupations Addiction counselors; case managers; clinical social workers; clinical therapists

Source: PayScale.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

If you're interested in working as an art therapist, you'll usually need a graduate degree, and you'll likely wish to look for art therapy programs that are AATA-approved. Some schools offer bachelor's and master's degree programs specifically in art therapy, though other schools offer art therapy as a concentration within an art education or a counseling program. You might also be able to complete a dual bachelor's and master's degree program in art therapy. Applicants to a master's program typically need to hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to art or psychology and have accumulated numerous credits in both disciplines; a portfolio is often requested as well.

Art therapy programs may include courses on psychological evaluation, cross-cultural counseling, child development and art analysis. You often learn to apply art therapy to working with children, adults, families and school systems. Programs include practical training through fieldwork, clinical work, service learning courses or an internship.

Becoming An Art Therapist

Based on online job advertisements from January 2016, employers typically require a master's degree in art therapy, certification in art therapy and a couple years of relevant experience. Some employers need art therapists to work with specific populations, like the homeless, the terminally ill or those recovering from substance abuse issues.

Once you finish your degree and complete at least 1,000 hours of postgraduate professional experience, you may apply for the Registered Art Therapist (ATR) professional credential, offered through the Art Therapy Credentials Board. Once you're a registered art therapist, you may then take a written exam to become a Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC).

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:

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