What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a specialty area within the greater mental health profession. Art Therapists work with clients using various art medium, initiating the creative process to explore their feelings, resolve emotional conflicts, promote self-awareness, manage behavior, eliminate addictions, improve social skills, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. The overall goal of art therapy is to improve client’s functioning and sense of mental and physical well being. In order to become an art therapist, the individual must have knowledge of visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms) and the creative process, in addition to skills in the field of mental health, such as human development, psychological, and counseling theories and modalities.

Who Can Be Treated With Art Therapy?

Art therapy is an excellent treatment tool for a wide range of individuals. People undergoing developmental, medical, educational, social or psychological impairment can greatly benefit from this type of therapy. Others who can benefit from art therapy include people who have lived through a traumatic incident from combat, abuse, or natural disasters; those with physical health conditions such as cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other health disability; and those with long-term diagnoses, such as autism, dementia, depression, and other disorders.

How Can I Become an Art Therapist?

In order to pursue a career as an art therapist a minimum of a master’s degree is required for entry into the field. The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is a membership and advocacy group that serves its members and the general public by outlining minimal standards of professional competence, and developing and promoting knowledge in, and of, the field of art therapy. The AATA Committee establishes the Education Standards used by the Educational Program Approval Board (EPAB) to review art therapy masters programs for compliance and accreditation. Approved programs can be found on the American Art Therapy Association’s website.

How Many Art Therapy Jobs Are Available and What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data specifically on the field of art therapy, they include this occupation among “therapists, all other.” There are 11,770 employed in this category in May 2014 with a median annual wage of $55,900. The American Art Therapy Association has about 5,000 members in the United States, and its 2013 survey found that most of these art therapists have an annual salary of between $30,000 and $80,000.

Where Can I Work?

Art therapy is practiced in a wide range of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings. The list of potential places of employment continues to grow and this specialty area becomes more and more popular and accepted as a mental health profession.


Art Therapy.org

Bureau of Labor Statistics