California Online Art Therapy Graduate Programs

Online Art Therapy graduate programs provide a course of study that integrates counseling methods with visual arts practices. Students learn how art therapy is a form of therapeutic intervention where people are guided through a creative process. For instance, they might study how people can draw, paint, make a collage, or chisel a sculpture to express their emotions, thoughts, or beliefs.

Art Therapy Degree Programs Online

Students will be shown how this often nonverbal process of making artwork can be assessed and used to develop a treatment plan. You will study the objective of art therapy, which is to help people manage behavior, anxiety, stress, and conflict through making art.

Studying Art Therapy Online 

Busy adults might choose to earn their Art Therapy Degree online for the convenience. Many online art therapy programs are designed to prepare students to take the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Art Therapist (ATR) exams.

DID YOU KNOW?

76% of Art Psychotherapists and Art Therapist/LPC have a masters degree, while 24% report they earned a post masters certificate.i

Online Art Therapy Course Work

Students who work towards their art therapy degree online may be able to take 100% of their courses in the virtual classroom. The standards for the course of study is usually established by the Educational Program Approval Board (EPAB) of the American Art Therapy Association. The list below is a sample of approved art therapy course topics.ii

  • Art therapy history and theories
  • Counseling methods
  • Psychotherapy
  • Ethics, standards of professional practice
  • Assessment, evaluation
  • Treatment methods
  • Individual, group, and family art therapy techniques
  • Human and creative development
  • Multicultural issues
  • Research methods in art therapy

Complete Your Practicum Locally

For credit internship experiences in clinical, community, and/or other settings, a capstone project may be expected. While online art therapy programs might use great digital tools to simulate scenarios, students in art therapy masters programs might have to complete their practicum locally, as would their campus counterparts. Because an internship might require about 600 hours of on-site experience, students should check with prospective schools to see how to meet those requirements ahead of time.

Supervised Skill Sets

Students might be evaluated on Knowledge, Interpersonal Skills and Dispositions necessary for progression at various transition points through the program. This may entail brief visits to campus. Or, you may be able to complete local clinical experiences with a registered art therapist.

Comprehensive Exams

Aside from courses and a masters project or thesis, students may have to take comprehensive examinations. It is best to check with a future school to see what their procedure is for online students. That said, you may have access to plenty of online resources such as libraries with databases, an academic advisor, and a tutor.

Online Plus On-Campus Residencies

While on campus, online students may have the opportunity to take part in group art workshops or professional seminars and to interact with faculty. Online, students may continue to communicate with peers and faculty via their course management system.

Online Art Therapy Degree Requirements

Online colleges for art therapy may have different requirements but it is common that students need to have their official transcripts. Online Art Therapy Masters programs generally insist on a Bachelors degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education. A minimum GPA may also be necessary, along with these items.

  • Reference letters
  • A writing sample – for instance, why applicant chose to earn an art therapy counseling degree
  • A link to an online portfolio of the applicant’s art work
  • Psychology credits at the graduate or undergraduate level (e.g. Introduction to Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Personality Theories, and Developmental Psychology)
  • Studio arts credits at the graduate or undergraduate level
  • Personal interview

How Long Might It Take to Earn an Art Therapy Degree Online?

Online Art Therapy programs that are approved by the AATA usually take 18 months to 3 and a half years to complete. This translates to about 48 to 60 semester credits. 

Types of Online Art Therapy Programs

Students who want to earn their Art Therapy degree online may look into masters, PhD. and post masters certificates. Some programs highlight the mental health counselor aspect, while others do not. As with any choice related to your education, it helps to have a clear sense of what you hope to do with your degree. Furthermore, state boards and license requirements do vary, so keep abreast of these issues to make sure you are prepared.

Online Master of Arts in Counseling – Art Therapy

An online Master of Arts in Counseling in Art Therapy may meet the education requirements for students who want to take exams and register as an art therapist and licensed professional counselor. This type of program may mix counseling, art therapy education, and research with clinical and community service. As a result, students may develop clinical assessment and treatment skills as they take courses in visual arts practices.

Online Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health /Art Therapy

The online Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health with a Post Masters Certificate in Art Therapy may prepare students to work as clinical mental health counselors with an emphasis on art therapy practices. Graduates of this type of program may meet the educational requisites for registration as art therapists and may also be eligible for state licensure as a professional counselor.

Online Post Masters Certificate in Art Therapy

An online Post Masters Certificate in Art Therapy may provide current mental health counselors specific art therapy techniques to help them apply for their Registered Art Therapy (ATR) status. This type of program may have fewer courses than a full degree but may still target art therapy practice, theory, assessment, ethics, and professional functions.

Online PhD in Art Therapy

Online PhD in Art Therapy programs provide art therapists the chance to contribute to their field through quality research. Some PhD Art Therapy programs may entail about 48 credits, a practicum, and a dissertation. The requirements may include interdisciplinary courses, research methods, artistic knowledge, and practical application.

Where Are Art Therapists Employed?

Art therapists may be employed in a variety of settings. These could include hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practices, and other environments.ii  In addition, many Mental health counselors are employed by state and local government. Per the BLS, the May 2015 median annual salary for mental health counselors in state and local government (excluding hospitals and education) was $51,380.iii

Find Accredited Art Therapy Programs Online

Approved and accredited art therapy programs may be offered by regionally accredited institutions. Also, an online art therapy program itself may have either approval by the AATA (American Art Therapy Association) at the program level as well. Several programmatic accreditors for art therapy degree online programs are the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASSAD) Commission on Accreditation, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), and, as of 2017, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Take the Next Step

Earn your Art Therapy Degree online! Compare schools with online art therapy graduate programs as you scroll through these paid programs. You can refine by degree level to help you find your match.

Then, easily contact the schools on your list with one click. Many online schools offer rolling admissions and multiple start dates and the next one might be just around the corner. Take that next step now!


[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1125.01 | [ii] arttherapy.org/upload/whatisarttherapy.pdf | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm

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