Art Therapist Career Plan

The art therapy field draws people with two strong interests: the creative arts and the helping arts. Although a person can begin to combine these interests as early as high school, it generally takes a master’s degree to actually work as an art therapist. The following steps are designed as a guide for those considering the career.

  1. Take a solid college prep curriculum. Look ahead, and make sure you’re prepared for the ACT or SAT. You may want to enroll in a psychology course as an elective.

  2. Also take advantage of fine arts opportunities – both academic and extracurricular. Develop your artistic skills to the point that you’ll feel comfortable taking college studio art classes. You might also explore other arts. If you become active in the performing arts, you’ll likely put on performances for younger students, and have the opportunity to interact with them and see them smile. Drama also builds communication and interpersonal abilities – skills that are important across healthcare disciplines.

  3. Do some job shadowing to confirm your career goals. Also look for volunteer opportunities. You might help youngsters with arts and crafts or assist the elderly in a nursing home. Large hospitals sometimes have multiple well-defined volunteer programs and are able to match candidates to areas of special interest.

  4. Enroll in an undergraduate program. You have a choice of majors, but make sure you get your prerequisites in. If you take at least 18 hours of studio art, it will save you time later.

  5. Seek out a master’s level program in art therapy. Program should be accredited by the American Art Therapy Association or another approved body. You’ll want to make sure that the program you take will qualify you to sit for certifying exams. You can expect an accredited program to meet core standards for art therapy. Some programs combine art therapy with other fields, allowing you to tailor your career. Antioch University in Seattle, for example, has a program which combines mental health counseling and art therapy.

  6. Take full advantage of opportunities at the undergraduate level. You might join a professional organization or seek out summer internship opportunities.

  7. Complete your clinical hours and fulfill any additional licensing requirements (if applicable).

  8. Gather your professional resources and beginning looking for a job. Wayne State University notes that it is often necessary to begin in a part-time or contract position. Art therapists are sometimes hired in related fields, though, so there are a lot of possibilities to explore.

Personality Traits: Art therapists have excellent people skills and know how to read situations. They often project warmth and enthusiasm, but know how to step back when necessary.