How to Become an Art Therapist

Art Therapists are certified professionals in the mental health field who use their knowledge and passion for art and therapy to help their patients cope with physical, emotional or mental disorders.

Using a variety of artistic activities and projects, an Art Therapist will guide their patients through their individual coping process to help them heal at the emotional and self-esteem level.

Individuals who want to become an Art Therapist can use their therapeutic background and artistic skills to help their patients heal on a more holistic level.

Their skills can help treat the depression, stress and anxiety involved with a physical or mental diagnosis.

Education Requirements to Become an Art Therapist

Individuals who want to become an Art Therapist need a combination of innate skills, certification and educational background in order to join this profession.

An Art Therapist must first attain their bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

Individuals can acquire a bachelor’s in Art or Recreational Therapy or a similar field and take specialized courses in Psychology and Studio Art to prepare them for the Masters Art Therapy program.

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Individuals must then apply to a Master’s program in Art Therapy.

The American Art Therapy Association recommends that individuals create a portfolio of art to present their artistic abilities.

In addition, the Association recommends that individuals have 18 credit hours of studio art classes as well as 12 credit hours of Psychology courses in order to apply for Art Therapy Master programs.

You may visit the American Art Therapy Association website to learn more detailed information regarding this profession, how to become a member and learn more information about the recommended Art Therapy programs in the nation.

During the course of their Art Therapy Master’s degree, individuals will focus on classes in psychology, psychotherapy, human development, patient assessment, ethics as well as many different topics in Art Therapy.

In addition, individuals must also seek certification in order to become an Art Therapist.

Art Therapists must meet registration requirements to become a Registered Art Therapist (ATR).

In addition, individuals may also register for the advanced ATR-BC which indicates that an Art Therapist has been board certified.

For more information on the distinction, visit the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) website.

Art Therapist Job Description

Art Therapists use their background in the visual arts, psychotherapy, human development counseling and their patient’s creative process to help them overcome emotional, physical and mental problems associated with the diagnosis of an illness, disease or disorder.

Art Therapists may work with patients with the following disorders:

  • Anxiety/Depression or other mental problems
  • Mental Illness
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Difficulties related to a disability or illness
  • Trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Physical, cognitive or neurological disorders
  • Individuals have social or other problems related to a medical illness or diagnosis

In conjunction with other medical professionals and sometimes working as part of a health care team, Art Therapists work to develop a plan and strategy that will enhance a patient’s emotional, physical and mental well-being.

Some common types of art used in Art Therapy can include, sketching, painting, sculpting and sometimes music.

Art Therapist Salary and Career Path

The median annual income for Recreational Therapists, including Art Therapists, was approximately $42,280 in 2012.

The exact salary will depend on work experience and the industry an Art Therapist works in.

For example, the industry paying the highest wage for this profession is the Federal Executive Branch that pays a median annual income of approximately $65,240 while the lowest paying industry are Residential Care Facilities that pay an average wage of $36,930 per year.

Positions and job opportunities for Recreation Therapists, including Art Therapists, are expected to increase by 13 percent through the year 2022.

This average growth is attributed to the aging baby boomer generation.

This increase will make this specialized type of therapy more accessible to older patients who suffer from age related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, strokes and any other age related illness or ailment.

Art Therapists use their passion for art and therapeutic background to treat and help their patient’s overcome and accept diagnosed illnesses or disorders.

Their skills are vital in helping their patients conquer any depression or shame related to being diagnosed.

Individuals interested in becoming an Art Therapist can also look into other Recreational Therapies such as Music Therapy, Sports Therapy or Physical Therapy if interested in this line of work.

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