Art Therapy

Art therapists guide patients or clients in the production of visual art to help manage emotions and anxieties. This mental health profession requires a broad knowledge of art techniques and media as well as psychology and counseling practices. It rose to prominence in the 1940s, when therapists became interested in combining ideas developed in the field of psychoanalysis with with concepts then current in visual art. The professional organization for the profession, the American Art Therapy Association (A.A.T.A.), was established in 1969.

Research indicates that art therapy can contribute to better health outcomes for patients, including the elderly, children and those under stress or experiencing depression from long-term treatments like chemotherapy.

Schools accredited by the American Art Therapy Association teach a curriculum that prepares students to be either A.A.T.A.-registered or -board certified art therapists, while the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation (N.C.T.R.) offers another widely recognized certification. Each is awarded when the student passes an exam. Art therapy certification also requires an accumulation of clinical or internship hours.

Most states do not require licensing to practice as an art therapist. Among those that do, licensing requirements vary considerably. Hours of internship, clinical hours and the number of credit hours for certain types of classes affect qualification for a license.

Bachelor's Degree in Art Therapy

Some programs offer an art therapy degree at the bachelor's level. While the knowledge gained in earning the bachelor's might prepare students for graduate study, the degree itself adequate neither for accreditation, nor entry-level employment as an art therapist.

Possible jobs for those with an undergraduate degree in art therapy involve community arts.

  • Community art organizer
  • Arts center worker

No undergraduate programs are recognized by the Educational Approval Program Board (E.A.P.B.) of the American Art Therapy Association, the official accreditation agency of the discipline. However, bachelor's programs are often available from art therapy colleges that have an accredited master's program. When offered as part of a dual-degree program, these undergraduate art therapy programs can help bridge students to a master's degree in a shorter period of time than would usually be required.

Master's Degree in Art Therapy

Entry-level jobs in art therapy require a master's degree. The accreditation body of the A.A.T.A. recognizes around 25 art therapy schools that offer master's degrees. It takes around two years to earn this degree.

Students who apply to art therapy master's programs must have earned bachelor's degrees. A certain number of undergraduate credits in studio and psychology classes are generally prerequisites to acceptance. Schools often expect applicants to provide a portfolio of their artwork.

The courses involved in an art therapy master's program include studio classes, classes concerned with the theory of art therapy, and classes in psychology. Acquiring the ability to interpret the work of clients or patients for therapeutic purposes sets art therapy training apart from the experience of a student in a traditional art or psychology program. Classes that teach methods for encountering particular groups, such as teens, seniors, or the disabled, are also part of the curriculum.

  • Theory and practice of art therapy
  • Art therapy assessment
  • Art therapy with groups
  • Multicultural issues in art therapy
  • Psychopathology
  • Behavioral psychology

A final thesis, exploring in depth some aspect of the practice or theory of art therapy, is required of students in accredited master's programs.

After graduation, a registered art therapist who satisfies any state licensing requirements in effect may fill roles in institutions both large and small.

  • Hospitals
  • Cancer centers
  • Schools
  • Prisons
  • Private practice

Ph.D. in Art Therapy

Those who wish to perform research in art therapy, manage other professionals in the field or teach university-level classes may choose to pursue a Ph.D. in art therapy. However, many professionals find that a master's degree is adequate for most research when working under a supervising scientist. Similarly, those with masters' degrees occupy many managerial and teaching roles.

Those few schools that offer a Ph.D. program in art therapy expect that increasing demand for art therapists will, in time, place a greater value on advanced degrees. Often, students who have received a master's in art therapy opt to take their Ph.D. in a different, but related, field. There are also doctoral programs that offer concurrent master's and doctoral degrees.

Coursework for a Ph.D. in art therapy combines clinical practice with many credit hours of research.

  • Dissertation research
  • Interdisciplinary study
  • Advanced clinical practice

Jobs available to graduates with doctoral degrees in art therapy include teaching and administrative positions, as well as the option of establishing an independent practice.

  • University professor
  • College administrator
  • Independent researcher
  • Private practice

We found 41 schools offering art therapy degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 41 Art Therapy Colleges in the U.S.

Top Art Therapy Schools By Total Enrollment

1
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 24942

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
2
George Washington University
Washington, DC  |  Total Enrollment: 20527

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
3
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY  |  Total Enrollment: 19771

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
4
Bowling Green State University - Main Campus
Bowling Green, OH  |  Total Enrollment: 18096

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's
5
Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY  |  Total Enrollment: 13144

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
6
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Edwardsville, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 12193

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
7
Long Island University - C W Post Campus
Brookville, NY  |  Total Enrollment: 9627

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's
8
Marygrove College
Detroit, MI  |  Total Enrollment: 5744

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's
9
Emporia State University
Emporia, KS  |  Total Enrollment: 5616

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's
10
Springfield College
Springfield, MA  |  Total Enrollment: 4722

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's

Browse All 41 Colleges With Art Therapy Programs


Title City State Enrollment
Adler School of Professional Psychology Chicago IL 332
Albertus Magnus College New Haven CT 2105
Alverno College Milwaukee WI 1932
Anna Maria College Paxton MA 1255
Arcadia University Glenside PA 2736
Barat College Lake Forest IL 799
Bowling Green State University - Main Campus Bowling Green OH 18096
Capital University Columbus OH 3899
Converse College Spartanburg SC 1412
Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk VA 699
Edgewood College Madison WI 2062
Emmanuel College Boston MA 1765
Emporia State University Emporia KS 5616
Endicott College Beverly MA 1697
George Washington University Washington DC 20527
Goucher College Baltimore MD 1971
Harding University Searcy AR 4337
Hofstra University Hempstead NY 13144
Long Island University - C W Post Campus Brookville NY 9627
Marian College of Fond Du Lac Fond Du Lac WI 2557
Marygrove College Detroit MI 5744
Marylhurst University Marylhurst OR 984
Marywood University Scranton PA 2859
Mcp Hahnemann University Philadelphia PA 2500
Mercyhurst College Erie PA 3186
Millikin University Decatur IL 2334
Mount Mary College Milwaukee WI 1246
Norwich University Northfield VT 2652
Notre Dame De Namur University Belmont CA 1670
Pratt Institute - Main Brooklyn NY 4272
Saint Vincent College Latrobe PA 1206
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Chicago IL 2578
Seton Hill University Greensburg PA 1706
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Edwardsville IL 12193
Southwestern College Santa Fe NM 90
Spring Hill College Mobile AL 1484
Springfield College Springfield MA 4722
University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago IL 24942
University of Indianapolis Indianapolis IN 3599
University of Louisville Louisville KY 19771
Ursuline College Pepper Pike OH 1252