Art Therapy Graduate Programs

Art therapy is the use of art for psychotherapy and mental health counseling. By expressing themselves through art and exploring their creativity, those with psychological disorders, trauma, stress, anxiety, depression, or any number of mental conditions can use art therapy as treatment to overcome their disorders (1).

The foundation of art therapy lies in the idea that studying and creating art can help people work through issues, manage stress and behavior, and increase confidence and self-awareness (2).

Graduate degree holders in art therapy often work as occupational art therapists to help their patients overcome mental health difficulties by connecting with art and using it as an outlet to manage their personal difficulties. However, the career possibilities for art therapy graduates may include education, counseling, and community service work.

Jobs for Graduates of Art Therapy Graduate Programs

While art therapy seems to be a very specific degree for only one career niche, there are many related careers in art and counseling fields for qualifying graduates with the proper licenses and credentials to pursue.

While art therapy seems to be a very specific degree for only one career niche, there are many related careers in art and counseling fields for qualifying graduates with the proper licenses and credentials to pursue (3)

In these positions, as appropriate for each specific environment, art therapists will consult with their patients to establish counseling goals; plan therapy sessions with their patients to work toward those goals; assess which types of art will be most beneficial for the patients; lead individual or group art session that emphasize self-expression and creativity; and customize art therapy sessions for different patients or groups of patients (4).

Art therapy graduates could also go on to pursue careers in the education of art, counseling, or art therapy (5). The degree holder will likely need teaching certification and licenses for the state in which they plan to pursue primary or secondary education careers, while graduates of art therapy Ph.D. programs could qualify to teach or research at the university level.


of art therapy programs could even open and operate their own studios, taking clients in a more casual atmosphere and leading art sessions and informal art therapy counseling.

Occupational interests, or the characteristics demanded of someone working in a field that might help people to discern whether a career is right for them, can help in envisioning a career in art therapy.

The primary occupational interests for the profession of art therapy are social and artistic. Social interest means that art therapists will likely have an extremely social career that involves communication, interacting with patients, teaching people, and helping others. Artistic interest requires self-expression and working with forms and patterns. Graduates who are both social and artistic may be great fits for art therapy careers (6).

A third important occupational interest for art therapy is investigative interest. This involves the ability to determine facts through observation, solve problems rationally, and work with ideas (7). Investigative thinking will help an art therapist to assess the root of a patient’s disorder and treat the patient using appropriate art therapy techniques.

Working in the art therapy field generally requires the use of excellent communication and interpersonal skills on a daily basis, so these are assets in the field. The ability to encourage patients’ creativity and show them the meaningfulness and value of art is also foundational.

Art therapists often work in teams that may consist of medical professionals, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, and teachers, but they just as often work alone with their patients, depending on the career and the environment (8).

Common Application Requirements

Graduate programs in art therapy typically have similar admissions requirements to other graduate programs. Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree in an accredited four-year institution, and many programs require the applicant to have taken a certain number of undergraduate courses in art therapy, studio art, and/or psychology. If the prerequisite requirements are met, the first step in applying will likely be starting the online or paper application (9).

Graduate programs typically require letters of recommendation, a r

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