Art Therapy

Art therapy utilizes creativity and expression to help patients resolve conflicts and alleviate personal disabilities. Learn about art therapist education, job responsibilities, employment outlook and salary to make an informed career decision.

Is Art Therapy For Me?

Career Overview

Art therapists are healthcare professionals who work with patients who suffer from conditions such as depression, amnesia, autism or bulimia. As an art therapist, you may work in a hospital, outpatient care center, school or rehabilitation center, using different artistic techniques to help patients overcome feelings of stress and anxiety, express their emotions and thoughts, practice mindfulness and develop their potentials. Depending on each particular patient, therapy sessions may include painting, sculpture or drawing.

Salary and Employment Outlook

If you're interested in becoming an art therapy professional, now may be a favorable time to enter the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for recreation therapists, which include art therapists, is expected to grow by 13% over the 2012-2022 decade. This will be due in part to the expansion of federally funded programs for disabled students as well as the growing elderly population's expected need for therapy services to treat various conditions. The BLS also reported that the mean annual wage for recreational therapists in May 2013 was $45,520 ( ).

How Can I Work in Art Therapy?

Education Programs

A bachelor's degree program in art therapy can be the first step to becoming a practicing art therapist. This type of program can prepare you for graduate studies. Or, you could enter the workforce as an art specialist in various settings, such as community organizations, social services institutions or healthcare centers.

Earning a master's degree in art therapy is necessary if you want to become a professional art therapist. A certain number of art and psychology courses must be completed at the undergraduate level to qualify you for entrance into a graduate program. In addition, you'll probably be required to submit a portfolio showcasing your artistic talents.

Areas of Study

A typical curriculum in a master's-level art therapy program builds on a strong foundation in psychology and exposes students to a wide selection of studio art courses. You might be able to specialize in an area like challenged populations or addiction. Coursework may include classes such as materials and media in art therapy methods, developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, ceramics, psychopathology, multicultural populations and counseling techniques. You'll be trained to work in a clinical setting through practicum requirements.


Upon earning a master's degree in art therapy, you may seek to become a Registered Art Therapist (ATR). You'll need to achieve a certain level of supervised professional experience beyond the master's degree in order to qualify for this credential. After becoming an ATR, you can become board certified (ATR-BC) by passing the national art therapy examination. In addition, after working in the field for a number of years, you might become an Art Therapy Certified Supervisor (ATCS). The Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. confers these credentials ( ). Furthermore, your state may require you to become a licensed professional counselor or licensed registered therapist; check your state's regulations.

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