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Counseling Psychology: A Guide to Art Therapy

Art therapy is a branch of counseling that uses sculpture, painting, performance, and other forms of visual, non-literal creativity to heal people. The theory behind art therapy is that trauma buried in the subconscious can be accessed and addressed by the self-expression required and fostered in art creation. Studies show that people treated with art therapy develop greater confidence and self-awareness. Far more sophisticated than just having a troubled person draw a picture, art therapy uses credentialed therapists and clinically-proven strategies to assess a patient’s condition and design his or her journey to healing through art.

The American Association of Art Therapy offers the main and most respected certification for this career field. This association requires that practicing art therapists earn a master’s degree either in art therapy or in the arts but with a concentration in counseling or therapy. Many aspiring art therapists focus on completing an undergraduate degree program designed around mostly counseling and art courses. Often, such preparation is supplemented with workshops and summer conferences.

  • Marylhurst University Programs: Marylhurst University, one of a few graduate art therapy program backed by the American Association of Art Therapy, offers a range of certificates and degree programs.

There are many specialty areas for those hoping to practice art therapy. Some therapists concentrate on soldiers and veterans suffering the after effects of war, while others specialize in aiding gifted or at-risk children. Many art therapy counselors focus on helping abuse victims whether in a clinical setting or in schools as social workers. Regardless of the area of specialization, proper licensing and ongoing professional resources and camaraderie are necessary for a well-rounded career.

  • Available Careers: This Seton Hill University website includes a bullet list of careers available to those with certification in art therapy.
  • Earning Certification in New York: This website discusses how to earn art therapy credentials in the New York area and includes a list of acceptable colleges.
  • Supporting Academically Gifted Children: This website discusses how to provide the necessary stimulation and growth for exceptionally gifted children through art therapy.
  • Helping with Autism: This web page discusses the use of art therapy to treat autism.
  • Art Therapy for Soldiers & Veterans: This article looks at the need for more art therapists to help soldiers cope with post-war stress.
  • Helping Survivors of Sexual Violence: This website looks at how a career in art therapy can be used to help victims of sexual abuse.
  • Social Awareness Art Therapy: This article looks at how the career of art therapists can be used to address social and political issues like racism.
  • Using Art Therapy in a Clinical Setting: This article looks at how hospitals are using art to help patients heal.
  • AATA: This website for the American Art Therapy Association is main resource for art therapists.
  • Professional Art Therapy Magazine: This Journal of the American Art Therapy Association features the latest developments and stories on image and visual therapy. Includes stories of therapists on the job.
  • Arts Therapy E-Zine: Fusion, an online magazine and key resource managed by the International Art Therapy Organization, posts its archive and current articles on this site.