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Art Therapy Graduate Degree Program Requirements

Graduate programs in art therapy blend studio arts with psychology and counseling to prepare students to become practicing art therapists. These programs usually include courses in counseling theories and skills along with classes on specific art techniques used by therapists.

Art Therapy Graduate Program Admissions Requirements

Applicants to master's programs in art therapy must hold a bachelor's degree, and programs usually require significant prior coursework in both studio art and behavioral health or social science, often with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Prospective students are expected to be familiar with art forms like painting, drawing, and clay modeling (this may vary by program, of course), and most programs require the submission of a portfolio of examples of an applicant's work. Schools may require that applicants complete an interview. Other common requirements include letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.

Art Therapy Graduate Program Information

Graduate programs in art therapy combine the study of the arts with theories on, and practical approaches to, psychological counseling, with the goal of preparing graduates to become practicing art therapists. Graduate degrees are typically offered at the master's level, although Ph.D. programs are available. Beyond enhancing students' skills through courses like the ones we cover below, art therapy graduate programs often incorporate practical experiences like clinicals and internships, and they may prepare students to seek licensure as professional counselors.

Introduction to Art Therapy

Art therapy graduate students usually begin their studies with courses introducing core principles of the practice of art therapy. Introductory courses often examine the history of the field and its connections with social science disciplines. Fundamental counseling skills are introduced, including establishing rapport with clients and developing effective communication techniques. Students may also examine typical artistic works they are likely to encounter in practice with various populations of clients.

Human Development

Courses in human development set the foundation for advanced study of art therapy by examining how people develop cognitively, socially, and emotionally throughout their lives. The course content usually includes theories of human development and how they can be applied to the practice of art therapy. These classes may focus on a particular period of development like childhood, adolescence, or late adulthood. Students may also explore how crises or aspects of identity like ethnicity or sexual orientation may impact development.

Art Therapy Counseling Theories

Graduate students in art therapy programs receive a solid background in psychological theories and how they apply to the practice of counseling via art therapy. Theory courses cover major schools of thought including cognitive-behavioral therapy, humanistic theories, and psychoanalytic theories. These classes may explore the history of academic inquiry related to art therapy, and students may conduct fieldwork or participate in role-playing exercises to practice applying these theoretical approaches.

Psychological Assessment Techniques

As practicing art therapists, graduates of these master's programs must be prepared to evaluate and appraise patient concerns to design a treatment plan. Courses in assessment cover instruments typically used in art therapy and how to apply diagnostic criteria to patients and the work they produce during therapy. These classes may introduce assessment methods including psychological testing, interviewing, and observation of client behaviors. Students may also learn approaches to recording and reporting information on patients' cases.

Art Therapy Techniques

Classes on art therapy techniques introduce students to specific materials and practices they will use when working with clients. Students gain an understanding of how painting, drawing, clay, and other studio arts can be incorporated into a treatment plan along with the benefits and drawbacks of each medium. These classes may focus on particular client populations like children or adolescents, and students may work in a studio setting independently or in groups as they complete assignments.

Professional Ethics

Ethics courses introduce graduate students to principles and challenges they may encounter as therapeutic practitioners. Students learn professional standards within the industry and explore specific topics including client confidentiality and maintaining a professional identity. Ethics classes typically incorporate videos, case studies, and role-play assignments to enhance students' skills in thinking critically about ethical issues and addressing them appropriately.

Treating Trauma Through Art Therapy

Classes focused on trauma examine the effects traumatic events have on individuals psychologically and neurologically and the theories that guide trauma recovery. Students learn approaches to diagnosing stress and trauma and intervention methods typically used by art therapists. In addition to individual trauma, these classes may examine methods of working with groups and communities who have experienced traumatic events.

Typically available at the master's level, graduate programs in art therapy provide advanced instruction in both studio art and counseling skills. Qualified students can expect to take courses in theories and techniques used in art therapy along with classes on human development and approaches to counseling.