What is the Career Outlook for Art Therapists?

| Staff Writers

Anyone who wants to become an art therapist will be glad to know that their career outlook is excellent. Research shows that the job growth for this career is expected to continue growing at 12 percent through the year 2024, which is faster than average.

The Art of Art Therapy

Art therapy started during the 1940s as an experimental mental health profession. Art therapy is facilitated by licensed art therapists who use artistic expression, media materials, creative processes and individual artwork to manage behaviors, raise self-awareness, explore repressed feelings, reconcile emotional problem, develop various skills, improve cognitive orientation, increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety. The ultimate goal of art therapy is to restore and improve the client’s functioning and sense of well-being.

Art therapy requires therapists to possess technical skills related to the visual arts, such as painting, drawing and sculpture, and the associated creative processes. Art therapists apply theories and techniques of human psychology, counseling and development to clinically help their clients. Art therapists must have a master’s degree earned at an accredited higher education institution. The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) maintains ethical, educational and professional standards for the profession. The AATA offers benefits to members, such as advocacy and training, and benefits to the public, by maintaining professional standards of competence.

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Job Qualifications

While most employers expect art therapists to have a master’s degree in art therapy, some only expect art therapists to be a licensed counselor with art therapy training. They may have worked as social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists and registered or vocational nurses. Art therapists usually have a few years of experience in a health care or behavioral health setting. The standard Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential ensures that art therapists have successfully completed graduate-level coursework in art therapy and supervised clinical experiences.

They must have excellent organizational and communication skills. They need to have the ability to prioritize workloads, meet deadlines and work in fast-paced, demanding environments. Art therapists need computer skills related to software applications, such as Word and Excel, and soft skills, such as gender and cultural sensitivity. Art therapists may spend their time in relaxed settings creating art, but they must still maintain appropriate confidentiality at all times.

Job Description

School art therapists may be daily responsible for group work, individual caseloads and general art therapy programming. They may work for a school district with licensed psychologists and therapeutic staff to help students deal with and overcome various academic, personal and home problems. Every day, they may host group and individual sessions. They must order and organize supplies, plan and schedule therapist meetings and communicate and collaborate with teachers and treatment teams.

Art therapists who work in mental health settings will work with clients who have a wide range of physical abilities, substance abuse issues and mental illness diagnosis. They are responsible for the coordination of art therapy services for assigned groups. They employ a variety of techniques to help every individual in their personal recovery process. Following the completion of each session, they create detailed documentation. They provide various types of art therapy sessions to build awareness regarding addictions, interpersonal struggles and mental health problems.

Art therapists will need excellent written and oral communication skills because they create patient reports, progress notes, treatment plans and case summaries. The BLS offers a career profile introduction of being an art therapist here.

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