Art Therapist

Activity Therapist, Activity Therapy Specialist, Art Psychotherapist, Art Specialist, Art Therapist   More Names
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Help children and adults work through their thoughts and feelings about problems and challenges in their lives through the creativity of art and drawing. Use knowledge of therapy and art to help patients handle stress, work through trauma, deal with physical and emotional disabilities, and realize their potential as human beings. Patients include those undergoing medical treatment, rehabilitation, and the terminally ill. Provide therapy treatments for children; teenagers; and older individuals; as well as couples, families, groups, and communities.

Art therapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, hospices, community centers and clinics, and private offices; they also work as independent consultants. Some of these hospitals and other facilities where they work are operated by local, state, or federal government agencies. They can also be found working in non-clinical settings, such as in art studios or workshops that focus on creativity development.

Art therapists combine traditional psychological and therapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of the mental and emotional aspects of the creative process, especially as expressed through different art materials. They have their patients use art materials such as paints, chalk, and markers to express feelings, conflicts, and thoughts in a non-verbal way.

Colors, details, spatial arrangements, proportions, and technique are examined by the art therapist to understand how each patient sees their world; thereby getting them art to share subconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, pains, and joys through their art. The art therapist then works with the patient to better understand their issues and problems, and come up with ways to cope with those thoughts and emotions in their daily life.

As mental health professionals, art therapists can be found in many clinical settings. They usually work in consultation and cooperation with physicians, mental health specialists, nurses, and other therapists. Because they so often work with children, couples, and families, their practice is closely related to marriage and family therapy; and many art therapists choose also to be trained and certified as marriage and family therapists.

Art therapists should have a strong desire to help others and be able to inspire respect, trust, and confidence. They should be able to work both independently or as part of a team, and adhere to the code of ethics associated with their profession. They also need to have a high level of physical and emotional energy to handle the array of problems and issues that they will face and need to address with their clients. Despite the difficulties they will face at times, those in this profession indicate that the decision to become an art therapist can be very rewarding.

Credentials Needed: Almost all states require art therapists to be licensed. The state board of social work or state board of mental health is usually the licensing agency responsible for art therapists, marriage and family therapists, and other therapist occupations. Again, before beginning education and training, it is a good idea to check the licensing requirements for the state in which an art therapist plans to work.

The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) in a May 2012 publication, " Guidelines for Insurers: Art Therapy Services & Reimbursement Claims Determinations," contains the following guidance regarding state licensure: "The licenses art therapists hold may carry different titles, such as art therapists, licensed professional counselor-art therapist, clinical psychologist, marriage and family counselor, mental health counselor, creative arts therapist, or others, depending upon state licensing practices and individual qualifications. Some states provide an Art Therapy license using the specific title such as Maryland, Mississippi, Kentucky, and New Mexico. The Creative Arts Therapy license is offered in New York. In a number of states art therapy licensure is included under a Professional Counselor license. Consult the American Art Therapy Association's web site for the most current licenses titles for art therapists in states across the country. In terms of their educational, training and licensure requirements, art therapists are comparable to counselors and marriage and family therapists."

Requirements for both art therapists and marriage and family therapists typically include the completion of a master's degree; completion of two-years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience beyond the master's degree, passage of a state-specified exam, and adherence to ethical codes and standards. There also may be other requirements for those working a particular setting, such as in a private practice.

The Art Therapy Credentials Board awards the Art Therapist Registered (ATR) as a voluntary credential in recognition of specific standards of professional competence. This certification requires appropriate work experience and a master's degree from an approved graduate program.

Some Key Things to Remember: Art therapists combine their knowledge of therapy and art to help patients handle stress, work through trauma, deal with physical and emotional disabilities, and realize their potential as human beings. They use the creativity of art and drawing to help children and adults work through psychological problems and challenges. Almost all states require art therapists to be licensed, with a master's degree in art therapy from an approved postsecondary education and training program usually needed for entry-level employment and licensing.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
12% - Average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $35,570 - $59,680    Hourly: $17 - $29
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specifc requirement is identified at this time.

Legal Requirements

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Master's and Above (High School + 6 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

12% - Average
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Typical Wages:

Annual: $35,570 - $59,680

Hourly: $17 - $29