According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is the use of artistic creation within a professional relationship between a patient and counselor for healing purposes. Patients may have dealt with trauma or illness or may be searching for direction and personal development. Research by the AATA has confirmed that the process used in artistic expression helps patients address and resolve conflicts, handle stress and behavior, and increase self-esteem. The combination of art and psychology came into practice during the 1940s when therapists used expressive arts to help patients release their unconscious thoughts.
Education for Art Therapists:
According to the AATA, creative art therapists are educated at the master's level and are licensed to practice counseling in their state. Art therapists must take coursework in theories of art therapy, statistics, research methods, human and creative development, multicultural issues, individual, group and family techniques in therapy, and practicum hours in clinical or community settings. Because creative art therapy is a practice used to help patients manage mental, emotional, and physical hardships by using creative arts to express emotions, you will need specialized skills in a performing art to work in this field. You might study drawing, painting, drama, poetry, sculpture, or dance, along with coursework designed for therapists and counselors.
Undergraduate Majors and Fine Arts Study:
A variety of undergraduate majors may be pursued to work toward a career in creative art therapy. You should study studio art, creative writing, dance, or another performing art to develop skills in a particular artistic area. Psychology, art therapy, fine arts, and sociology are all majors with coursework that leads toward a career in art therapy. You will still need to enroll in a master's program in art therapy to gain the necessary credentials to practice in this field.
Certifications and Licensure:
Not all areas of practice require a license or certification for art therapists. The Art Therapy Certifications Board is a United States certifying board for art therapists, and though not all positions will require board certification, it is a great idea to take the board examination and become certified. This certification will open up job opportunities and allow you to practice in a larger variety of communities.
Salary of an Art Therapist:
According to the American Medical Association, the 2009 starting salary for an art therapist is $39,000. The overall average salary for art therapists is between $30,000 and $50,000 per year, and the upper ranges of salaries span from $89,000 to $149,000. According to the George Washington University program for art therapy, art therapists with doctoral degrees and state licenses, or those who are able to conduct private practice, have an earning potential of $75 to $90 per hour. Clearly, earning the highest degree possible and gaining state licensure will boost your ability to increase income and work for yourself in private practice. You can find out about approved college and university art programs in the United States through the AATA website.