Master's in Art Therapy Programs

Updated November 22, 2023 · 4 Min Read

Learn all about master's degree programs in art therapy and determine if this is the right education path for you. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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An art therapy degree can open the doors to many valuable careers helping others. With such a high demand in special needs and therapeutic services today, this degree choice is one that will enable the earner to have security and luxury of choice at job-search time and throughout their adult life. In the meantime though, you have to earn that degree.

5 Typical Courses in an Art Therapy Degree Program

The art therapy degree prepares the student for the complexities of intuitive therapy applications in the most sensitive of cases. It is an intensive yet uplifting degree path full of opportunity for personal growth and benefit. What kinds of things you study will depend much on the school and your minor selections. To get an idea of the most typical, post-core courses encountered within this degree, we've detailed a short list of five here. Let's take a look.

Studio-Based Art Therapy

In studio-based art therapy, students will learn a lot on the processes of conducting therapy in a studio-like setting. In such a setting, there may be a great number of media and art techniques available to the therapist and client alike. Choosing the most valid ones for the situation and intended goals is important. This class will prepare the student with a greater ability to navigate such a therapy setting as well as use creativity to embolden the process and client.

Abnormal Psychology

The Mayo Clinic classifies mental illness as having many, varied symptoms including social withdrawal, detachments from reality, excessive fears or guilt, mood swings, and sadness. Being able to identify symptoms like these and then apply them to diagnosis and subsequent treatment methods is extremely important. The abnormal psychology course will prepare you for this exact area of the job and its required insights into abnormal psychological patterns and processes. Learn about abuse consequences and patterns, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, defense mechanisms, and more.

Art of the Western World

In most cases, those practicing art therapy in the United States will be dealing with clients that have spent much if not all of their lives living in the United States. Naturally then, those clients will be most familiar and comfortable with art styles that are common to this region of the globe. The typical, art of the western world course is important in assuring that the future art therapist is able to communicate via a media and style most suited to the majority of clients served by the field.

Theories of Personality

The world of theory on personality is a vast one. Many scientists and researchers have contributed here, making for a deep, yet ever-evolving, collective theory on the state of personality. What makes personality so different from one to another? How does personality affect decision-making in day-to-day life? How much of the personality can be attributed to environmental or genetic variables? These are the concerns of this course, giving students a clearer understanding of this therapy-requiring concept.

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Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Introduction To Painting

The introduction to painting course is one that essentially assumes the student is starting painting with no past experience. Concept, method, different mediums, best practices, and creativity in work are all taught here, giving one a great basic knowledge of painting. Other, introductory-level art courses are also required by the art therapy major, much like this one. These include introductions to clay art, 3D concepts, and photography. After one has mastered these courses, there is often an array of intermediate studies to follow in these same areas. The goal is to create an art therapist that is well-versed in all areas of art and thus able to provide the maximum possibility of benefit in therapy for the client.

5 Great Internships for Art Therapy Majors

As an art therapy major, you can look for art therapy internships that will give you a better understanding of the skills you learned in your classes and gain some experience working with real patients too. Though some internships are only open to those in graduate programs, you'll also find programs designed for undergrads that will look great on your grad school application. The top internships require a time commitment on your part of no more than 20 hours.

Art Gallery and Studio Internships

If you want to stay close to home, look for internships available in local art galleries and studios near your college campus or home. These studios often have programs designed for children that teach them how they can use art therapy to improve their self-esteem and deal with problems they experience at home or school. Some of these programs may require that you work more as a teacher than a therapist, but you'll have the chance to work with patients who need your help.

Helpful link: The Best Undergraduate Degrees in Art Therapy Ranked by Affordability

Family and Children Services

Social workers often assist children going through traumatic events in their lives. Depending on where you live, those social workers might work for the Department of Family and Children Services or a similar department. Internships for art therapy majors are available through those departments and give you the chance to spend more time working with children of different ages. Social workers use art therapy as a way to open up the lines of communication and to help children feel safe talking about what they went through.

Medical Centers and Hospitals

You can also look for internships available in local hospitals and medical centers. Art therapy is a common form of therapy used in major children's hospitals located in big cities like Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia, but you may find that smaller hospitals need help learning the benefits of these programs and implementing one. Interns will generally meet with kids diagnosed with serious illnesses and help them conquer their fears and improve their self-esteem through the use of arts and crafts projects like painting or sculpting.

Retirement Homes

Though many of the top art therapy internships involve working with children, some believe that these techniques and methods can help adults too. Doing an internship in a retirement home lets you work with those suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia and similar disorders. As they paint and do other projects, they learn how to battle stress and better handle some of their symptoms. Those projects can also help them recall events that happened years ago and remember the loved ones they forgot over the years.

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Volunteer Organizations

Talk with your school about whether you can do a longer internship with a volunteer organization. Many colleges will give you up to three full credits for an internship that lasts an entire semester, and some of these organizations need students willing to commit to working for at least a semester or over the course of the summer. One example is Art Relief International, which believes that art can change society as a whole. It offers internships both abroad and in domestic locations. Its official site lists past and current projects as focusing on the creation of new art pieces, designing and developing art programs and soliciting donations for future projects.

As an art therapy major, you learn the importance that art has in the lives of others. Once you finish your degree, you might work for the government, in a hospital or with small children. Some of the top art therapy internships available today include those in volunteer organizations, children's hospitals and retirement homes.

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