Personnel Improvement Center
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Art Therapist

Art Therapists help people understand their problems and guide them to solutions through the creative process. An art therapist is concerned with the treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental, emotional, medical, or physical disabilities. An art therapist uses art, as well as traditional means of therapy, to lessen an individual's frustration, promote healthy development and diminish the effects of a disability. Art has also proven to be a useful tool in diagnosis and mental health evaluation, particularly for children.

Nature of Work:

  • Draws upon knowledge of art, psychology, and the young student artist to elicit art objects that are important elements in the healing process
  • Provides children with the means to express feelings of anger, depression and aggression
  • Assists children to discern the difference between reality and the fantasies that often accompany extreme stress, environmental events, and mental or emotional disorders
  • Uses impressions and conclusions from the artist’s work to set goals that support achievement of educational objectives
  • Participates as member of an interdisciplinary team where insights and conclusions are shared for planning a child’s educational program

Education Required:

  • A graduate degree that includes standards developed by the American Art Therapy Association—coursework includes psychopathology, diagnosis and assessment, principles of art therapy, ethics and standards of practice, and normal developmental sequence
  • Professional Registration is offered by the Art Therapy Credentials Board. To qualify as a registered art therapist, an individual must complete a minimum of 1,000 direct client contact hours in addition to the educational requirements.

Personal Qualities:

  • Artistic ability
  • Creativity
  • Sensitivity to human needs and expressions
  • Emotional stability
  • Patience
  • Capacity for insight into psychological processes

Job Outlook and Advancement:

  • Art therapy is a growing occupation as it gains acceptance as a viable therapeutic and evaluative tool, but it is still a relatively rare field with less than 5,000 in the U.S.
  • Art therapists with advanced degrees may teach at the university level and do research.
  • Most art therapists continue their own art career while practicing as an art therapist.

How to Prepare for a Career:

  • Visit or volunteer at a site that has an art therapist
  • Develop and maintain personal artistic ability
  • Contact the American Art Therapy Association, Inc., for career information

Resource Information:

American Art Therapy Association, Inc.
1202 Allanson Road
Mundelein, IL 60060
847-949-6064

Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc.
401 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
312-527-6764


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The National Center to Improve the Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Personnel for Children with Disabilities (Personnel Improvement Center). A Cooperative Agreement, H325C080001, between the US Department of Education and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Project Officer: Maryann McDermott
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NASDSE | 225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone 703.519.3800 | Fax 703.519.3808
NASDSE