An art therapist uses art to help patients discover truths about themselves and the world.

The connection between art and wellness has long been understood by therapists in all disciplines. The self-expression and satisfaction that people experience when creating works of art can help them resolve inner conflicts or simply give them a peaceful respite from a stressful world.

Creating art can help people:

  • Express their emotions
  • Develop strong self-esteem
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Manage their behavior and emotions

Art therapists utilize skills in studio art, psychotherapy and counseling to help guide patients through this process. For those with an interest in therapy and a talent in art – as well as a belief in what creating art can achieve – a career as an art therapist is a worth considering.

What Art Therapists Do

An art therapist works through sessions with patients on a variety of artistic activities while also, at times, discussing the patient’s life issues.

The idea is to provide the opportunity for patients to focus on the artistic process, freeing the mind as they create. Activities can including sketching, painting, sculpting or any other artistic-related endeavor. Art therapists work to help patients feel better about themselves and life’s many up-and-down complications.

Ultimately, they aim to give patients a better outlook on life.

Art therapists work under a set of ethical rules, according to the American Art Therapy Association.  These rules provide “aspirational values and principles” that help art therapists when they encounter common situations with patients.

Art therapists can also work at the community level, providing education and training in art for larger groups that help them with similar goals of self-fulfillment, reduced stress and am improved outlook on life.

Education For Art Therapists

Art therapists typically attain a master’s degree in art therapy. The goal is to prepare them to work with a diverse set of people across various communities. Some may choose to specialize in helping children or older adults. Some also might work with those dealing with medical conditions or mental health issues.

The accepted standards for art therapists require 60 hours of graduate coursework. This includes training in studio art disciplines such as drawing, painting and sculpture. Coursework also focuses on the creative process, psychology, group therapy, assessment of art therapy and multicultural diversity.

Students then must complete 100 hours of clinical, supervised training working with patients, and another 100 hours of clinical training in a specific art therapy internship. The focus is on honing skills that enable art therapists to use the creative process in helping patients achieve self-awareness and to facilitate learning.

It’s critical that the degree program has been accredited by the Educational Programs Approval Board or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Art therapists also must attain certification from the Art Therapy Credentials Board to work in most states.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not record job and salary information specifically for art therapist, but its occupational employment statistics for May 2016 showed “therapists, all other” with a mean annual wage of $60,590 nationwide.

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