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How do You Become an Art Therapist?

According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), an art therapist must have a master’s degree and meet the educational guidelines of the Art Therapy Credentials Board. These degree programs should be approved by the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Art Therapy Degree Basics

Art therapy education programs are designed to produce independent practitioners and professionals of art therapy. Degree standards are currently being redeveloped to assist education administrators with creating effective degree programs. Entry into the field of art therapy requires an accredited master’s degree. Students are expected to understand the current curriculum standards and degree procedures of the AATA. This organization is designed to empower professionals to use art to heal patients and enhance lives. They provide professional competency standards and promote art therapy-based scientific research. The AATA’s Education Committee establishes education standards, supports program diversity, encourages communication between educators and provides information to students regarding degree programs.

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Admission Standards

In order to be admitted into an AATA approved program, applicants must have an accredited bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. Degree programs must require applicants to submit an art portfolio that demonstrates their skills and competency. Art therapy degree programs must require that admitted students complete their program in less than 12 months. Art therapy degree programs must include at least 18 semester hour credits of courses related to art practices and proficiency. Applicants must demonstrate evidence of artistic experiences with a wide array of art theories, materials and processes. Degree programs must include at least 12 semester hour credits of psychology classes. Two of these classes must be in abnormal psychology and developmental psychology. Students must commit to maintain proper professional ethic practices and legal standards.

Curriculum Requirements

Art therapy degree programs must include at least 48 semester credits that are approved by the AATA. Degree programs designed to meet state licensure and clinical education standards may require 60 semester credits. Students must pass the following art therapy related classes. First, classes in the history and theory of art therapy. Students must learn about the development of art therapy as a unique therapeutic practice. Second, classes in art therapy techniques. This includes direct experience with therapeutic practices, psychological models and art materials. Students must know how to establish individual therapeutic goals and clinical intervention strategies. They must develop interviewing and counseling skills for artistic assessments, therapeutic communication and treatment planning. Group work classes will cover the principles of group behaviors, dynamics, approaches and leadership styles. Art therapy assessment coursework focuses on statistical concepts, instruments and procedures used to appraise students’ work and progress.

An art therapist should have the right skills and qualifications. They must know how to professionally engage clients and coworkers. They may be asked to provide supervision for volunteers as well as training tasks and professional development for staff. Art therapists must excel at discovering innovative learning practices, supporting evidence-based practices and implementing new educational programs.

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