Art therapy is a profession in the mental health field. Art therapists use art to help clients of all ages work through traumatic events, express their emotions, improve their outlook on life and become more self-aware through the creative process. They work in psychiatric facilities, senior community centers, hospitals, schools, and many other settings. Certified art therapists must have at least a master's degree in art therapy.

Bachelor's Degree in Art Therapy

Candidates must complete a bachelor's degree in art therapy before they can enroll in a master's degree program. Undergraduate students study both psychology and art. They typically enroll in classes such as art history, counseling, abnormal psychology, painting and design. Most colleges require students to spend time volunteering or completing an internship in art therapy before graduation. Undergraduate students typically complete 12 semester hours of psychology coursework and 18 semester hours of art studio classes. They also develop art portfolios which showcase their best work.

Master's Degree Prerequisites

After successfully completing the requirements for a bachelor's degree in art therapy, the candidate must submit an application to enroll in a master's degree program. Art therapy programs at this level require students to submit their art portfolios as proof that they can successfully work with a variety of different art mediums and materials. Students who have not successfully completed the required number of credits in studio art and psychology must complete any remaining classes within twelve months of enrolling in graduate school.

Graduate Coursework

Art therapy students must complete a minimum of 48 semester credits at the graduate level; some states require 60 credits before they will grant the candidate a professional license. Graduate students complete coursework in psychological theories, psychopathology, counseling and research. They also take classes specifically related to art therapy, such as clinical interventions, assessments, group art therapy, the history and theory of art therapy, and practical techniques. Students are required to fulfill a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship, with at least 300 of those hours spent working directly with clients. Students who intend to pursue a mental health counseling license must also complete a 900-hour internship.

Certification Requirements

Art therapist trainees who successfully complete their master's level studies and fulfill the practicum and internship requirements must apply to the Art Therapy Credentials Board to become registered art therapists. Some therapists who desire advanced credentials complete a rigorous written test to earn board certification. Art therapists can also continue school to earn post-master's level credentials or work toward a Ph.D. in art therapy.

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