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Art Therapy Master's Degree Programs

Learn about the topics studied in art therapy master's degree programs, as well as any program prerequisites and the typical time to finish the program.

How to Earn an Art Therapy Master's Degree

Master's degree programs for art therapy typically require a bachelor's degree in either art, psychology, or a related field and/or completed prerequisite coursework in psychology and art, with the number of credits varying by school. The program typically takes 2-3 years to complete, and many art therapy programs are combined with counseling programs; courses such as introduction to art therapy, professional ethics and law, and art therapy techniques are taught.

Introduction to Clinical Art Therapy

Introduction to clinical art therapy courses teach students about the history and theory of art therapy. The psychotherapeutic practices used by licensed counseling professionals, such as marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, and art therapists, are also explored. Students will learn about these techniques and how to apply them in a culturally diverse society.

History and Foundations of Art Therapy

History and foundations of art therapy courses give students an overview of the history of art and how it has played a part in mental and physical healing. Students will learn about early images, sacred sites, and the artwork of mentally ill people, as well as how Freud and Jung blended art and psychology. Study of the pioneers of art therapy as well as modern developments and the practice of art therapy across diverse populations will also be explored.

Substance Abuse Theory, Treatment, and Assessment

Courses related to this topic teach students about the major approaches and best practices, based on evidence, of identifying, evaluating, treating, and defining substance abuse disorders in patients. Students will learn how to work with children and teens with substance abuse issues and how to use the mental health recovery program as a means of prevention. Topics also included are the dynamics of treating populations with high-risk exposure to addiction, the mental and physical effects of addiction, and the role of persons and systems that support or compound substance abuse. Students should come away from the course with a deep understanding of how addiction works, as well as how it can be treated and its effect on different populations.

Cross-Cultural Issues

Courses concerning cross-cultural issues as they relate to art therapy and psychological treatment explore theories and practices used by professional counselors and art psychotherapists when treating multiple cultures. Students learn individual and community strategies for working with and advocating for diverse populations, as well as how to remove bias and prejudice in a counselor role. The effects of socio-economic position, as well as the effects of oppression of race, gender, sexuality, spirituality, and disability, and their toll on mental health are also explored. Students should understand by the end of the course how to sensitively approach patients who are mentally affected by these oppressions and issues within their cultures.

Methods of Group and Family Therapy

Courses about the methods of group and family therapy teach students the counseling and psychotherapeutic theories and techniques that practicing marriage and family counselors use, as do art psychotherapists. Course content is heavily focused on applying counseling principles to marriage, family systems, and relationships. The dynamics of groups are also taught, and students will learn how to analyze and treat individuals in a group setting. Students should have thorough knowledge of the dynamics of marital and family relationships, as well as groups, and an understanding of the principles and practices of evaluation and treatment in these settings.

Professional Ethics and Law

Courses about the laws and ethical standards surrounding professional counseling practice explore topics such as confidentiality, counselor-client privilege, and what to do if a patient shows signs of becoming a danger to themselves or others. In a master's program for art therapy, counseling ethics and law as they apply to art psychotherapists are also studied in these courses. Students will learn how to legally and ethically practice counseling and art therapy.

Studio Art in Art Therapy, Counseling, and Psychotherapy

Courses such as this provide students with studio time to practice and develop their own artistic techniques and apply them to the realm of counseling and psychotherapeutic goal setting. Students will explore their personal creativity and the process of materials and media involved in art-making, and how it is integrated into increasing mental health and wellness. Topics also include consultation and supervision in the healthcare field as it relates to art therapy strategies, diagnosis, and treatment planning. Depending on the school, students may display their work in a studio art show.

Theories and Methods of Intervention

Intervention courses as they relate to art therapy teach students methods of dealing with patients who are experiencing trauma, grief, or loss, to the point of crisis. Strategies and procedures for assessing risk are discussed and demonstrated through counseling and art therapy assessments. Students will learn interview and intervention skills to broaden their knowledge of patient trauma and how to treat it effectively through means of counseling and art.

Art therapy master's degree programs combine the study of art therapy and counseling to teach students how to treat patients in a variety of ways that include creativity and psychology. Programs typically last 2-3 years and courses such as art therapy theories, ethics and law, and cross-cultural issues are taught.