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Art Therapist

Education and Training: Master’s degree in art therapy
Average Salary: $30,000 to $70,000 per year
Job Outlook: Good

An art therapist’s job is to care and treat patients through the use of therapeutic means involving channeling creativity into art. Caring for and establishing a trusting relationship with the patient is more important than the aesthetics of the art, mostly because the success of the job relies on how the patient will respond to the therapy.

This can be both a fulfilling and frustrating job, so one has to know beforehand if he or she is viable to become an art therapist.

Train and treat patients with art. The patients can range from elderly to little kids, while the therapy itself can aim to resolve either a physical illness or emotional duress. This means that the art therapist will have to utilize both psychology and art and create art therapy methods that have been tested to aid people in working through troubled moments.

Have care and commitment to service. Creativity and imagination will also help the art therapist in aiding the client towards recovery. Commitment to the work is also a must because there will be times when the job can be stressful, so the art therapist has to love the job in order to thrive in it.

Education and Training Requirements

To become an art therapist, it is advised for a candidate to get a master’s degree in the field of art therapy. Usually, the history, theory, and techniques of art therapy are taught during the two years of the program. In addition, an art therapist will also be taught about treatment settings necessary for the job and one will be able to complete a thesis.

There are also certifications from the Art Therapy Credentials Board, such as being a registered art therapist and being a board-certified art therapist. Art therapists who want to be qualified for private practice would have to attain a PhD with a state licensure.

Aside from the education, candidates for a career in art therapy should have good listening skills, a compassionate attitude, and genuine care for service of others, because the job entails interaction with different kinds of people.

Getting the Job

Since the job includes the word “art,” most people assume that the most important requirement that one has to have would be an extensive knowledge and talent with art. This means knowing how to draw, sketch, paint, and teach this particular knowledge.

While experience of working in the arts is part of the job description, it is more important to have sensitivity to the patients that the art therapist will be caring for. Strong communication and listening skills will help in gaining the clients’ trust. One also needs to have a non-judgmental attitude so that there will be a trusting relationship between the client and the art therapist.

A good way to see if one is suitable for this career is to volunteer with helping kids or the elders. This will allow one to see if helping and working with others fits one’s lifestyle and attitude.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The profession of art therapist can be considered under the broad category of recreational therapists. This group involves treating patients through various methods, including crafts, drama, dance, singing, and arts. As a profession, art therapy is predicted to develop 18% of employment chances until 2018, as those who are currently practicing the profession will have to give way to the younger generation.

There will also be job opportunities in communities like schools for disabled students and hospitals and clinics for recovering patients.

Competition will become fierce especially with the economy. Cutting costs can affect some recreational therapists’ jobs, which can also affect art therapists. Some may have to transfer to clustered areas like cities in order to find art therapist job opportunities that pay the average income. But the industry poses a huge potential of developing, expanding, and being recognized by professionals and clients.

Working Conditions and Environment

Instead of an office setting with cubicles and computers, art therapists would be exposed to interpersonal relationships with different kinds of people. The work conditions may vary depending on the location of the candidate’s job. An art therapist can work in hospitals and clinics, domestic violence shelters, colleges and universities, correctional and elder care facilities art studios, sheltered workshops, and private practice.

Since an art therapist is exposed to interactions with people, they would not be working with charts and graphs. Instead, art therapists would usually have to handle equipment like counseling tools, toys, and art materials that provide therapeutic relief when used, such as clay, pencils, paint, fabric, and wood.

Usually, art therapists work full time from 30 to 40 hours a week. If one is doing private practice or is self-employed, he or she can opt to fix the working schedule according to the candidate’s preference.

Travel is not out of the question, considering how some communities and settings may be in another area that would require the art therapist to travel.

Salary and Benefits

Annually, art therapists can earn from $30,000 to $70,000. However, based on the statistics from the Office of Science and Education at the National Institutes of Health, the salary for art therapists can vary depending on the company and the practical experience of the candidate.

For instance, there is a difference between the incomes between entry-level professionals in environments like hospitals, correctional facilities, schools, and clinics, and private practices. The median income for the former is $45,000, while those in a private practice can earn as much as $75 to $150 per hour. However, one has to comply with the stipulations necessary to work in a private practice.

Where to Go for More Information

American Art Therapy Association
225 North Fairfax St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(888) 290-0878

National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations
AMTA, 8455 Colesville Rd., Ste 1000
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine