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Art Therapy/Therapist

Program Description

Just the Facts

Art Therapy/Therapist. A program that prepares individuals, in consultation with other rehabilitation team members or in private practice, to use drawing and other art media forms to assess, treat, and rehabilitate individuals with mental, emotional, developmental, or physical disorders. Includes instruction in art, history and theory of art therapy, art therapeutic techniques, psychopathology, patient assessment and diagnosis, cultural diversity issues, legal and ethical practice issues, and professional standards and regulations.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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Related Programs

Often similar programs have different names. Be sure to explore all your options.

Additional Information

Art therapy students learn to analyze artwork or responses people have to artwork. They learn to use art to help people with emotional, educational or social development.

Multi-tasking talents will be essential. Besides their academic work, student art therapists are expected to do practicum or community placement work. Practicums require students to observe and work with mental health professionals and patients.

A typical day could find you putting in a full eight hours at a psychiatric clinic or rehab center, complete with staff meetings and patient sessions. Then you would have classes in the evening. And, of course, you're going to have to fit your homework into that action-packed day as well.

The most common type of art therapy involves the visual arts, though dance, music and drama are sometimes used as therapy too.

Anne Weil, an admissions counselor at Naropa University in Colorado, says her program requires students to complete 30 hours of counseling with a registered therapist. "We expect them to do their own work on themselves, before they start counseling other people."

Art therapists are a well-educated bunch. The American Art Therapy Association's (AATA) education standards require a master's degree.

Kate Weishaar is the coordinator of the art therapy program at Alverno College in Wisconsin. "Art therapy at the master's degree level is a professional title regulated by many states," she says.

That means you may have to get a license and register as a professional art therapist before you can start practicing in your area.

Most master's programs in art therapy have high entrance standards. Gilda Grossman is the director of an art therapy institute. She says candidates for the institute's two-year graduate program must have a bachelor's degree, good grades and a record of volunteer work. "Children, seniors, adults -- any area is fine."

Art therapy program expenses may include:

  • Textbooks
  • Art supplies
  • The cost of producing thesis manuscripts and slides
  • Counseling with a registered therapist

Alverno offers a bachelor's degree in art therapy, which is unusual -- master's programs are the norm. According to Weishaar, "Most jobs for persons with a bachelor's degree in art therapy will be listed under titles such as activity or recreation therapist, artist, facilitator, etc."

The AATA approves post-secondary programs in this field. A school doesn't have to be approved by AATA to teach art therapy. However, schools with approval have met certain quality requirements. So, you may want to ask the school you're applying to if it's AATA approved.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Counselors

American Art Therapy Association - Tools & Resources
Check out the resources available

Arts and Healing Network
Resources for artists and therapists working with art

Art Therapy FAQ
Frequently asked questions about art therapy from the AATA


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