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The Colorful Canvas of Art Therapy Careers

An art therapist advocates the potential healing power of art. These individuals work with patients of all ages to help them creatively express themselves for the benefit of their emotional and physical wellbeing. Art therapy is a technique that can also be used to diagnose and treat medical or mental illness, abuse or domestic violence, grief, and addictions.

Art therapists usually rely on one of two belief systems:

  1. The belief that the creative process of manufacturing art is therapeutic and an opportunity to express one's self in a way that, over time, can lead to personal recovery and fulfillment.
  2. The idea that art is a method of symbolic communication. In this approach, patients are encouraged to communicate the feelings that are evoked by artistic expressions (drawings, paintings, photography, sculptures). The goal is that with the help of an art therapist, the patient will be able to resolve conflict, problem solve, and achieve insights.

Most art therapists work as part of a larger health care team in settings such as hospitals, schools and universities, long-term care facilities, domestic violence shelters, private practices, community agencies, and correctional facilities.

Educational Requirements and Outlook for Art Therapists

The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) requires that students interested in becoming professional and certified art therapists earn a master's degree in art therapy or a master's degree with an emphasis in art therapy. This must be achieved via an AATA approved art therapy program and is required to include a minimum of a 700-hour clinical practicum or internship working in a supervised art therapy practice within the community. Once this is complete, individuals can apply to become a registered art therapist (ATR) through the Art Therapy Credentials Board. Following ATR status, one may sit for the art therapy credentialing exam.

After completing the recommended coursework and certification requirements, art therapists can expect to earn anywhere from over $30,000 to about $70,000 annually. The salary one earns depends greatly on the venue in which the therapist is practicing. Those who choose private practice can expect to earn significantly higher salaries, for example.

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