Do I Need to Be an Artist to be an Art Therapist?

| Staff Writers

Are you someone with a keen appreciation for art? Do you also desire a career in the mental health field and wonder how to combine the two if you have no artistic talent? Someone who is interested in becoming an art therapist may wonder if being artistic is a necessary qualification for the job. An individual who isn’t an artist may have a strong desire to work in this particular field of mental health. The following takes a look at the occupation of art therapist and answers the question of whether a person needs to be artist to pursue this career.

Details of a Career in Art Therapy

One of the most important responsibilities of an art therapist is to assist a patient in communicating his or her feelings through art. The therapist gives a patient the materials such as watercolor paints, drawing pencils or clay along with various other art supplies. Instead of conveying his or her feelings/emotions to the therapist verbally, the patient expresses them through an art project. The patient has control over what he or she creates; the therapist doesn’t interfere. After the patient finishes the project, he or she can share with the art therapist what various parts of the project symbolize. For instance, the patient may have used dark colors in one portion of a painting while pastel colors are relegated to another part. Some brush strokes may be gentle and flowing while others are harsh and powerful. The patient uses his or her artwork as a medium for getting painful or disturbing feelings out into the open in order to cope with them.

Does a Successful Art Therapist Need an Artistic Background?

An art therapist doesn’t necessarily have to have a background in art. But, some knowledge of an artist’s tools can help. A patient isn’t going to be painting a picture that belongs to a certain era in art history. The artwork will be original and serve a practical purpose. Ideally, the artwork will help the patient to deal with pent up feelings and fears in order to heal from mental distress. An art therapist with an artistic background will be aware of different types of paints, clay and drawing tools. Therefore, he or she can provide a varied collection of supplies to a patient. Art therapists without artistic backgrounds sometimes hire artists to help them advise the patient on the various supplies that are available. An appreciation for imaginative art is certainly a plus for any art therapist.

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Who Goes to an Art Therapist for Help?

Some of the people who benefit from the efforts of an art therapist are children from violent homes, soldiers with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder),victims of rape, and victims of various violent crimes. People who are overwhelmed with emotions they are having trouble expressing can turn to art therapy as a release for those emotions. They work on their art project in a peaceful atmosphere and have the freedom to express whatever they need to via their art.

Someone who pursues a career as an art therapist is offering invaluable help to patients who are having trouble coping with day-to-day life. This occupation combines art and science to help patients heal.

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