How To Become An Art Therapist

becoming an art therapist

Thinking about becoming an art therapist? First, make sure you understand what art therapy is. We use the term “art therapy” more loosely on this site than some other sites, but we also have a different mission and like the play on words. If you’re familiar with art therapy as a career and are seriously considering becoming an art therapist, then here are some good general guidelines to becoming one.

Art Therapist Job Search
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Self Assessment

Before you go down the path of becoming an art therapist (becoming educated, trained, licensed, certified and registered), it’s important to understand the demands of the profession and to consider whether you are not only capable of meeting those demands, but that you are also likely to enjoy being an art therapist. As an art therapist, you may or may not be lucky enough to pick which age group you work with. This age group can range anywhere from kids to seniors.

Since this is a therapy-related profession, it helps to have most or all of these qualities: good listener, empathetic, patience, communication skills, understanding of art and creative media. Ultimately, it’s best if you are passionate about helping people through creativity.

Location Matters

It’s important to understand the standards and requirements for your particular region. For example, some countries do not identify an “art therapist” as a true profession, and therefore have no regulation around it. So, guess what? It’s pretty easy to call yourself an art therapist and therefore work as one. However, as examples, in the United States and the United Kingdom, these standards and requirements are dictated by the American Art Therapy Association and British Association of Art Therapists, respectively.

Education

An art therapy education is the first big step in becoming an art therapist. In countires where the art therapist profession is regulated, you are almost certainly going to need a Master’s Degree from an accredited school offering an art therapy program. Check with your local/national art therapy organization for the most current list of accredited schools. It’s probably also ideal, and may even be required, for you to participate in an art therapy internship. Not only will this help you gain some experience, but interning in different settings is likely to help you decide with whome and where you might like to work.

Tip: It’s also a good idea to check with your local art therapy organization for any potential grants and/or scholarships.

Art Therapist Certification & Licensing

Art therapy is still pretty young as a profession, so it’s important to check with your local art therapy organization for proper certification & requirements. Not all locations require certification to legally practice art therapy, so it’s beneficial to understand exactly what these requirements are. In the U.S., the Art Therapy Certifications Board (ATCB) is a good place to start. Even if it’s not required, it’s usually a good idea to be come registered and board certified (ATR-BC).

Searching for Art Therapist Jobs

There are various places online to find art therapist jobs and related jobs that use art as therapy. The more places you search and apply, the better your chances. If location is vital, then you can typically narrow your search to where you’d like to work. It’s important to remember that some areas will have more opportunities than others, some will have more competition, etc.

It’s also important to realize that an art therapist’s salary may not be what you’d like it to be. This is another reason to understand the importance of loving what you do. Stay tuned for more information and, if you’re an art therapist, leave your suggestions in the comments below. You can also see what Featured Artist / Art Therapist Sara Roizen had to say about becoming an art therapist.

Comments

  1. Shirley Nikiforow says

    I would like to just assist an art therapist
    as a volunteer for helping kids with arts and
    crafts, but not become a therapist. Any thoughts
    on this. I live in North Ridgeville, Ohio, and
    this area of Cleveland would be great or in the area hospitals.
    Thanks, Shirley Nikiforow

  2. Fay says

    I am an artist and have a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I have used art therapy for 14 years in my practise. What would be the next step in becoming certified and registered?

  3. Angela Susan Harrison says

    I started Tutoring Art at one of our local Neighbourhood Learning Centres last year, and two of our students attend because it gives them relaxation and assists with motor skills. This week we practiced some line drawings and it was so satisfying observing one of our students who suffered brain injury, really draw a horse, then towards the end of the session he used his imagination to draw the rider, profile, and stirrups. After he had finished the drawing he spoke about his well loved horse he use to ride as a boy, and remembered its name. Even though he has suffered short memory loss, he can draw, and use his imagination, and he says he loves participating with the group. It has been suggested to maybe look into becoming an Art Therapist, but presently I do love Tutoring, and offering a venue to assist people with a disability in Drawing, Painting, and Art discussion. Presently this is a voluntary work, but maybe later I may offer Art Tuition to people either in Nursing Homes, or at their own home.It is so wonderful to see people developing their skills and creating some wonderful Art.I would be happy enough just studying for a certificate within The Art Therapy Field, I can Tutor and its nice to offer colour experimenting and pen and ink line drawings, to create pictures.Nice to hear about Art Therapy training suggestions today, may consider some course at a later stage.

  4. Kathy Adams says

    I live in Houston, TX and I would love to obtain a Masters in Art Therapy. My bachelors degree is in Art, I have worked in the Arts for 10 years and I am pursuing my certification as a Special Education teacher. I would like to work with children with special needs through art therapy. I have overcome my tragedies and personal struggles in life. I attribute my passion for art getting me through them to recovery. I cant seem to find any programs in Texas. And recommendations? Thanks!

  5. kim says

    To obtain a Masters in Art Therapy you have to obtain a bachelors degree in psychology first.

  6. Mary says

    No. You do not have to receive a bachelors in psychology to get a Masters in Art Therapy. That information is not accurate. Everyone needs to refer to AATA for an official list of accredited AT programs in the US. If you wish to get a Masters in AT – it is usually at least a two to two and a half year commitment requiring practicum and internship experience with documented supervision.

  7. Gerene Higgins says

    I am an Activity Director at a retirement center. One of the activities I do with the residents is called Art Therapy. They enjoy it so much some call me the art administrator, while others call me the art therapist where that came from I don’t know. I clearly have been motivated to become and art therapist. Where do I begin I don’t know.
    Gerene

  8. Gerene Higgins says

    I enjoy doing different types of art with the residents I work with as an Activity Director.
    I need guidance on becoming an art therapist.
    Thanks,
    Gerene

  9. Carlene says

    I’m a little confused as to what I should major in for college if I want to become an art therapist. Would art education or psychology be a better choice?

  10. Jason says

    Hello, I am an artist with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts. At the moment, im not finding many specifics on what it takes to become an official Art Therapist in Brooklyn, New York. Do I need a Masters Degree ( and if so, in what field? ) Psychology courses? And then what? Can it be a steady job? Could really appreciate a little help. Thanks.

  11. Larissa Mora says

    my name is larissa mora im 19 currently a tattoo artist in the Los Angeles area and would like to expand my artistic abilities into art therapy. If anybody is interested in having an intern or an assistant etc. please contact me at lmora92@rocketmail.com

  12. Emunah Cornelius says

    I am a student interested in becoming an art therapist. I would like to have some advice on what course or major I should take at the graduate level in order to pursue the profession later. I live in Bangalore,India and would like to know if there are any colleges here that offer the required subjects or course. Thank you.
    Emunah Cornelius

  13. says

    Hello,
    I am very interested in becoming an Art Therapist. I have a Bachelors
    of Fine Arts and am an Art Teacher (currently unemployed, and want
    to get my Masters. I also have Asperger’s Syndrome, and have for all
    my life found Art to be my personal therapy. Now I want to share this
    with others like myself. I can’t believe it! This could very well be my
    life purpose. I also have worked as the Art person at the Boys & Girls
    Club and have several years experience in subbing Special Ed.
    What do I need to do to become an Art Therapist? Thank you.

  14. Michele Storino says

    I too have a bachelors degree in fine art. I would love to work with people through art therapy. I have conquered eating disorders and addiction through art therapy. I must say I am unclear as to how to turn art therapy into a job. Do I need a certificate or masters degree?Did I need to major in psychology for undergrad??? There is so much you can teach people about themselves through art. Exactly what does it take? What types of organization should I donate my time to? Art even can play a major role on dealing with grief…. I find it hard to get clear information on the subject. I would like to get in contact with some people who are helping others through art therapy who do not have a degree in psychology. My degree in and passion for art must account for something.

  15. Shelley says

    I started to become an art therapy in California, after completing a Masters in Counselling. The program I was attending closed up due to financial issues. I was going slow and had just a few couses to complete. I really think the best way to become an Art Therapist is to get a masters and do your own art, and then become a licensed therapist. Add courses in art therapy and read what ever you can. It will be a journey. I found my education in Art therapy to be expensive and therefore exclusive, with not a wide variety of economic levels attending. I did learn a great deal and there is much to learn if you want to offer those you will be working with the very best and use art in a way that is the most theraputic.

  16. Seph says

    I’m really interested in becoming an art therapist. I have my BA in psychology but the Grad Schools in my area require 18 credits in studio art and 15 credits in psychology. I didn’t take that many studio art classes in college last time so I’m working on getting those requirements. I’m also trying to get a volunteer job locally working with kids affected my domestic violence/ sexual abuse where they do art therapy. Anyone have any other advice to polish up my applications? Are there any grants for people going to Grad School for this? I’ve been doing a lot of research but could use all the help I can get!

  17. Renee says

    Im very interested in becoming an art therapist. Im currently attending a junior college and up until recently had no idea what i wanted to do. Im wondering what to major in Art or What?

  18. says

    Im a high school graduate and have been volunteering at a hospital playing music and making art work with the patients there for two years now. I think i really love this idea because i love helping people and im naturally gifted in music, drawing and painting. Are there any short courses someone like me can do so as to advance the little experience already acquired to better help people in places like where i am that art therapy is still an alien word?
    THANKS

  19. Persephone says

    I, too, am working toward a degree in Art Therapy. I live in CT and am looking at programs in my general area. All the programs I have looked at require at least the following: 18 Psychology credits which must include Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology and Statistics of the Social Sciences. They also require 15 credits in Studio Art which must include Drawing, Painting and Ceramics. I’m currently nearing the end of reaching all of these requirements. Good luck everyone!

  20. Barbara Ray says

    When I was 6 years old I was bed bound do to Rheumatic Fever. I was taken out year. During that time my family and I moved in with my grandparents. I had stay in the house in bed, being carried everywhere I went. I cried all the time, I was very and unhappy. My parents made me a pallet on the porch swing. I felt FREE. It didn’t last. I saw my two younger siblings running and playing with the neighborhood kids. That Christmas I got a bike, but I couldn’t ride it. One day a neighbor boy was riding my new bike(he had none ). I was sobbing. My Papaw asked me why Believe? I told him I was feeling left out and boo hooked even harder. He went inside. He returned with a notebook and a coffee can full of crayons, pencils, and ink pens. He handed them to me and said ” stop crying. Draw yourself playing. Write a story about playing and add yourself. I did. It helped me so much that I still to this day use art , poetry, and short stories to cope and heal. I have an Associate’s Degree in applied Science for Human Services. I have for the past ten years worked with the elderly. Many times my art and poetry have helped me calm Alzheimers patients and the dying. I truly believe in the power of Art Therapy. I know I could excel in this field and in doing so bring comfort and courage to many. This is my passion.

  21. Alisya says

    I am an art student going to get a BFA with and emphasis in painting. I have found art to be therapeutic for me while i went through and eating disorder,cutting, and my parents divorce and my mothers new partner that has four kids that lived with me. I was wanting to know what kind of BA I should get? physiology with minor in art or art with minor in physiology or I’m confused.

  22. AB says

    Hello , I feel like reat of us here on this blog. I really would like to study art therapy but I live in Texas and after research it doesn’t seem that any of the schools here offer a specific degree for that . I was wondering it it would still be possible to do some of my schooling here by maybe studying family therapy and making visual arts a minor . It seems that art therapy is a combination of both ? Is it possible to do that in Texas?

  23. Kassidy says

    I am an undergrad student finishing up my sophomore year, and I am wondering what the next steps are in order to get into an Art Therapy Master’s program. Is it important to get research experience by working with a professor in a lab? Applied/volunteer experience? Anything else I should know? Any information would be helpful. Thank you.

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