Health Care Careers - Art therapist

Using different art forms and a variety of craft activities, art therapists treat emotional, mental, and physical disabilities in patients. An art therapist will engage a patient in the artistic process through drawing, painting, creating collages, taking photos, sculpting, or other art forms to help patients express their feelings and to promote self-awareness. This form of therapy is especially useful when dealing with people who are unable to talk directly about their problems.

Often times, an art therapist is able to make a breakthrough with a patient's therapy when efforts by other therapists have failed to help the patient move forward.

A typical session with an art therapist may involve the therapist directing a patient to work on a drawing or painting of a scene that mirrors something that is happening in that patient's life. In a group setting, the therapist may have patients work together on a mural; an exercise of this nature can help patients learn to interact with others in a productive manner.

A profession that began in the twentieth century, art therapy became popular in the 1930s as art instructors recognized the value of children's artwork as a representation of their emotional and mental states. At the same time, psychiatrists (doctors who specializes in mental illness) began to look at artwork done by their patients in order to determine whether or not a link existed between the art and a patient's illness.

Art therapy is used to treat people of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds. It can help people with problems of a developmental, educational, medical, social, or psychological nature. Oftentimes, art therapy will be employed in a number of settings, ranging from a private therapist's office to a school to a hospital. Art therapy can be used with individuals, couples, families and groups of people with similar issues.

Whether art therapists work in hospitals, shelters, or schools, they will usually work with teams of physicians, psychologists, registered nurses, social workers, and teachers in order to best serve a patient. With the combined knowledge of all of these individuals, art therapists are able to come up with effective mental health programs. Art therapists working in a private office may consult with these other professionals even though they may be their patient's primary therapist.

Training to Be an Art Therapist

Formal training for art therapists involves a four-year college degree in either art therapy or psychology with a concentration in art therapy, as well as a master's degree in art therapy. One needs a master's degree to be a registered art therapist. One can get a job in art therapy without a master's degree, but not be an actual therapist. To become a registered art therapist (A.T.R.), one thousand hours of direct client contact hours must be completed in a supervised setting. On a personal level, art therapists are, ideally, sensitive to people's needs and expressions. Patience, attentiveness, and good people skills are all characteristics of an effective art therapist. Furthermore, a solid understanding of psychology (the study of the mind and behavior) and of different art forms is necessary.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:


The Content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of Content found on the Website.