Art therapy can be a dream job for creative people looking for ways to help others on a very personal level.
It can be a very rewarding field to work in, but it’s not necessarily the right job for everyone.
To decide whether it’s the right career for you, you need to fully understand the pros and cons of this decision.
This guide provides some of the most common of each to help you through your decision-making process.
Table of Contents
- Pros of Being An Art Therapist
- 1. Art Therapists Get to Work Closely With People
- 2. You’re Providing An Avenue of Healing
- 3. You Get to Create Positive Change in People’s Lives
- 4. You Get to Introduce People to the Benefits of Artistic Expression
- 5. You’ll Grow As You Gain Experience
- 6. Art Therapists Enjoy Freedom in Their Schedules
- 7. The Pay Is Pretty Good
- Cons of Being An Art Therapist
- Pros and Cons of Being an Art Therapist – Summary Table
- Should You Become An Art Therapist?
Pros of Being An Art Therapist
The following are some of the top advantages of choosing art therapy as a career.
1. Art Therapists Get to Work Closely With People
Your job as an art therapist puts you front and center with your patients.
You’ll be working one-on-one in most cases.
At times, though, you might work with groups, couples, and families.
In any event, you’ll have constant opportunities to use your interpersonal communication skills and be social with others – a dream for many people.
2. You’re Providing An Avenue of Healing
People go to therapy for a variety of reasons, but almost all are related to some traumatic event in their lives.
These events could be anything from the loss of a loved one to childhood abuse to surviving a horrific natural disaster.
As an art therapist, you have the chance to help these people heal from the pain and suffering that the trauma has caused – which is an incredibly rewarding thing.
3. You Get to Create Positive Change in People’s Lives
Often, these traumatic events have a terrible impact on self-esteem, joy, and the ability to function effectively in their daily lives.
You can use your skills and profession to help people build their confidence and find a positive way to express their feelings.
All of this can help them learn to move through their days happier, healthier, and productively.
It can also help them build stronger and healthier relationships with others, which will have even more of a positive impact on their lives.
4. You Get to Introduce People to the Benefits of Artistic Expression
Art isn’t just a great way to help people heal – it also provides some incredible health benefits.
Some of the most well-known include treating anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.
It’s also great for relieving stress, which can have a very positive impact on the heart and more.
Additionally, it has been shown to improve memory retention.
As an art therapist, you get to introduce people to a very healthy hobby that they can use every single day.
5. You’ll Grow As You Gain Experience
There is something about helping others dive deep into themselves and deal with issues that can make you see yourself differently.
That’s why it’s a very common occurrence for any therapist working in the mental health field to grow in a very positive way as they treat patients.
If you choose to be an art therapist, don’t be surprised to find yourself constantly becoming a better – and more whole – person.
6. Art Therapists Enjoy Freedom in Their Schedules
Art therapy is one of the fields that allow you to be more flexible with your schedule.
If you choose to work for someone, you might need to work by their clock, of course.
However, many facilities allow you to set your own availability.
Other art therapists have their own practice, which gives them all the freedom they desire.
If controlling your schedule is important to you, art therapy might be a great career to choose.
7. The Pay Is Pretty Good
The salary of an art therapist can vary greatly, depending on where you live, how much experience you have, and similar factors.
The average annual salary is more than $44,000, which is a reasonable amount if you have no dependents or are a two-income household.
And there are art therapy positions in some locations that pay over $110,000, so there is definitely higher earning potential.
Cons of Being An Art Therapist
The following are some of the uglier sides of this field that might impact your decision.
1. You Need a Pretty Extensive Education
It can take some time to be able to practice as an art therapist – beginning with a Bachelor’s degree in art, social work, counseling, psychology, or a similar field.
Education is never a bad thing, but it does require time and money.
Typically, a Bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete, but there are accelerated programs that you can complete in three years or less.
You’ll definitely want to apply for scholarships, loans, and any other financial aid to cover the costs of this degree, as they can add up quickly.
2. And Don’t Forget the Master’s Degree
After completing your Bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to move on to a Master’s program.
There are a few Master’s programs that you can take, but one of the most common ones is a Master’s Degree in Counseling with a concentration in Art Therapy.
If you stick with the school-provided schedule, you should complete this Master’s degree in about two years – meaning at least six years of schooling.
If you work or have other obligations, you might need to take a bit longer.
3. You’ll Also Need to Get Certified in Your State
Even after six years of education, you’re still not quite ready to start working.
You still need a Licensed Professional Counselor certification.
This means you’ll need to complete the clinical hours required by your state’s licensing board.
Depending on your Master’s program, you might complete these required hours before you even finish school.
However, you might have to finish some of them on your own outside of your program.
4. You’ll Be Working Closely With People
For some people, working closely with others is a dream job.
For others, not so much – and that’s okay.
Not everyone is cut out for listening to and interacting with others throughout their entire workday.
That’s not a bad thing, of course, but it is something to think about when choosing whether to be an art therapist.
There are plenty of ways to help people without working too closely with them.
5. Art Therapists Face Some Pretty Ugly Stuff
You never know what a patient might be dealing with – and what conversations your day will bring.
You have to be ready, willing, and able to hear people recount some of the worst events of their lives.
Before you choose this career, consider whether you’ll be able to listen to a young child tell you horrific details of a person they should be able to trust hurting them.
Don’t be ashamed if you’re concerned you will have trouble with this – it’s not an easy task.
6. You Might Face Some Disbelievers
When you choose a field that is not considered “traditional,” you’re going to face some doubters and naysayers.
Although art has been used as a therapeutic practice for a very long time, not everyone knows or understands that.
And many simply cannot piece together how art can help with mental health concerns.
Be prepared to defend your choice of career – possibly even within your own family – and to deal with negative viewpoints.
7. The Pay Could Definitely Be Better
There are careers that pay less than being an art therapist, but there are also many that pay more.
As not everyone supports or believes in the effectiveness of art therapy, it can negatively impact how much you make.
If you want to pursue this career, you might need to move to a city that has a higher demand for art therapists or invest a great deal of money in marketing your business.
Pros and Cons of Being an Art Therapist – Summary Table
|Pros of Being An Art Therapist||Cons of Being An Art Therapist|
|1. Art Therapists Get to Work Closely With People||1. You Need a Pretty Extensive Education|
|2. You’re Providing An Avenue of Healing||2. And Don’t Forget the Master’s Degree|
|3. You Get to Create Positive Change in People’s Lives||3. You’ll Also Need to Get Certified in Your State|
|4. You Get to Introduce People to the Benefits of Artistic Expression||4. You’ll Be Working Closely With People|
|5. You’ll Grow As You Gain Experience||5. Art Therapists Face Some Pretty Ugly Stuff|
|6. Art Therapists Enjoy Freedom in Their Schedules||6. You Might Face Some Disbelievers|
|7. The Pay Is Pretty Good||7. The Pay Could Definitely Be Better|
Should You Become An Art Therapist?
This can be a really difficult decision to make, but it can be simplified by answering the question below:
Do you love art and psychology, want to help others heal, and don’t mind spending several years in school to make an entry amount of less than $50,000?
If so, art therapy just might be the best option for you.
If you want something with higher pay, less schooling, and less interaction with others, art therapy is probably not the best choice.