Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated August 2010
Did you know that artistic creation is therapeutic? There is something decidedly soothing about the work, and even in non-art-therapeutic contexts, many people just feel better after expunging their creating energies. But in the hands of an art therapist, the activity involved in the creative process can be invaluable from a medical and psychological standpoint. It can actually improve people’s lives.
That being said, students enrolled in art therapy curriculums must have an interest in art, psychology, medicine, and perhaps most of all, in helping people.
Art Therapy Courses
Art therapy courses run the gamut from counseling techniques to human development, and from growth to psychopathology. A graduate art therapy curriculum demands the participation of those with a unique combination of interests in art itself, the sciences of medicine and therapy, and the idea of helping other people.
Indeed, without art therapy courses to train professionals in the field, the recovery of patients would be far slower and more painful than it is. It is vital to remember that this is not only a growing field, but one whose importance and impact on society cannot be overstated. Art therapy can even be combined with other types of therapies in order to deliver optimal care to patients in need.
Students will learn about art therapy practice techniques in different treatment settings, which could include schools, hospitals, prisons, hospice, government agencies, non-profits and private practice. They can also choose art therapy concentrations in which they will learn to work with children, adolescents, the elderly and more. As the children of the baby boom generation become parents themselves, there is a great need for art therapists among a large population of children such as this.
Art therapy curriculums help students enhance their diagnostic, assessment, research, creative writing and clinical skills. Artistic mastery is not required, but students may take art therapy courses in visual arts such as painting, sculpture and drawing. Most students will take art therapy courses in historical and theoretical art therapy, art therapy materials, counseling theory and cultural diversity.
Other possible graduate art therapy courses include abnormal and developmental psychology, psychopathology, lifestyle and career counseling, and counseling techniques. All students pursuing a masters or PhD degree in art therapy will take part in studio art classes.
Students in graduate art therapy courses learn to deal with patients with physical, cognitive, neurological and psychosocial disorders. These patient ailments may be related to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, family issues, trauma, loss and more. To best serve patients, art therapy courses cover individual, group and family techniques, as well as ethics and standards of practice.
Art therapy curriculums on the graduate level require students to complete a practicum or internship. Before becoming an intern, students must complete at least 100 hours of supervised observation and practice. Most internships require students to complete at least 600 supervised hours over at least two academic terms, as well as at least 300 hours working directly with patients. Those who are pursuing a mental health counseling license will have to complete more hours.
Those enrolled in graduate art therapy curriculums will learn the standards and procedures of the Art Therapy Credentials Board’s (ATCB) Adopted Revised Standards and Procedures for Registration. Students will be required to gain licensure by passing the ATCB’s exam before they may begin an art therapy career.
Careers in Art Therapy
As with any field whose studies are as applicable to as wide a range of people and directions, those with a masters or PhD degree in art therapy may choose to go in any of a number of art therapy careers. These range from work as professors in art therapy programs themselves, posts in hospitals or mental-health institutions, work with disaster relief organizations, or in community centers and schools.
Art therapy careers command an average annual salary of $38,000, and salaries vary depending upon the specialization and setting in which students will practice. Those who enter careers as recreation therapists can earn about $38,000, while art therapy careers in clinical therapy have an average annual salary of $41,000.
Those who choose art therapy careers at non-profits can earn an average of $39,000 per year, while those who work in hospitals can earn about $40,000 each year. Art therapy careers at companies can command an average salary of $37,000 annually. While those who choose an art therapy career in the government sector can make an average of $34,000, those in private practice can earn about $36,000 annually.
Really, the direction in which you choose to go is, to a great extent, determined by your own skills and professional goals. The important thing to remember is that, whatever path you take, you will be making a difference in someone’s life.
So set yourself on the right course and find the perfect art therapy graduate program for your needs.
Photo by Yindabelle