Masters Degree in Art Therapy Programs

Art Therapy Masters Programs combine artistic expression, psychology, and counseling practice, to help students help their clients improve physical, mental or emotional well-being. A relatively new field (circa 1940’s), art therapy is a mental health profession. As such, masters programs in art therapy and counseling may help students develop specialized counseling techniques alongside knowledge of art media and psychology research.

Art Therapy Masters Programs

Masters in Art Therapy Requirements

Art therapy involves using creative skills to help others. Professionals in the field may demonstrate patience, top listening and communication skills, and expertise regarding psychology, cognition and behavior. If this sounds like a best fit for you, earning the degree of Masters in Art Therapy may be a great start, as this is generally the standard for entry-level education professional practice.ii

Art Therapy Masters Programs : Basics

How Long Does it Take to Earn an Art Therapy Masters?

Students may be able to complete Art Therapy Masters Programs in around 2 or 3 years of study beyond their undergraduate degree.

In order to apply, students may need to hold a bachelors degree in Psychology, Fine Arts, or another related field. Prospective students may be asked to submit a portfolio of their artwork along with a transcript of course credits in studio art or psychology.

Masters in Art Therapy programs may involve both classroom learning and field experience. This often comes in the form of a supervised practicum, involving both observation and practice, for course credits. Internships are also a common program element. These are also typically supervised, and allow students to gain experience working with clients in real life settings.iii

DID YOU KNOW? According to the American Art Therapy Association, a master’s degree is required for entry level

practice in art therapy. The master’s degree is earned at an institution of higher education recognized by regional accreditation bodies approved by the U. S. Department of Education.iv

Types of Masters Degrees in Art Therapy

Art therapy masters programs typically confer one of two degree types: Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS). While individual programs may vary, Master of Arts in Art Therapy programs may be more research-focused. They may emphasize academic skills and culminate in a masters thesis. Master of Science in Art Therapy programs, on the other hand, tend to focus on clinical practice. These programs may emphasize hands-on experience and be somewhat more likely to include internship or practicum elements.

In choosing a degree, you might also be able to choose between a specifically art therapy degree as opposed to a counseling degree with an art therapy specialization.

FACT: 76% of Art Therapists have a Master’s degree, 24% a Post-Masters Certificatev

Art Therapy Masters Programs Example Curriculum - Art Therapy Masters Degree Curriculum 

At their heart, the goal of art therapy masters programs is to help the aspiring art therapist learn to use creative arts therapies, processes, and counseling strategies to help clients. They may work on fostering self-awareness, managing anxiety, coping with stress, behavior problems, addiction, and even self-esteem. In support of this goal, accredited art therapy masters programs may comply with educational requirements as set out by the American Art Therapy Association. A program may include some of the following course topics:vi

  • Knowledge & skills in visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture)
  • Application of theories & techniques of human & creative development
  • Theories of art therapy
  • Counseling and psychotherapy
  • Ethics & standards of practice
  • Assessment & evaluation
  • Individual, group and family art therapy techniques
  • Multicultural issues
  • Research methods
  • Internship experiences in clinical, community and/or other settings

Masters in Art Therapy Formats - Art Therapy Masters Programs Online and On-Campus Schools

As you search for accredited art therapy masters degree programs, another thing to start thinking about is whether to attend classes on a college campus or earn your Masters in Art Therapy Online.

  • Masters in Art Therapy Graduate Schools allow students to pursue their masters degrees on campus. This may enable you to meet new people, participate in campus culture, and get hands-on instruction. Not to mention access to onsite facilities (gym, libraries, student services, art studio). If this sounds like your preferred learning format, think about where you would like to attend school and initiate a location search to see what comes up in your designated city, state or country.
  • Online Art Therapy Masters Programs are a more flexible alternative to campus learning. If you plan to continue working full time while earning your art therapy degree, this may be a tempting option. Earning your masters in art therapy online, you may have access to similar supportive resources as campus programs through an online portal. However, you may still need to complete some requirements (like internships) in person.

Art Therapy Masters : A Door to Licensing & Credentials

While the specifics may vary by state, earning an Art Therapy Masters degree is typically one of the prerequisites for professional practice.

In some cases, art therapists may also seek licensure in professional counseling which similarly requires a masters in psychology, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy or a related mental health field, in addition to post-degree supervised clinical practice and an internship or residency.vii

In other cases, graduates may pursue various credentials through The Art Therapy Credentials Board Inc. which is the credentialing body for art therapy practitioners.

The credentials described below hinge on getting a solid education from an accredited Art Therapy Master’s Program.

Registered Art Therapist

After completing a masters degree in art therapy, some graduates may seek state licensure, the requirements of which may vary. In some states, one may need to become a Registered Art Therapist (ATR). This involves earning a qualifying masters education (art therapy core curriculum, supervised practicum and internship experiences) and post-education supervised clinical experience.viii

Board Certification for Registered Art Therapist

Once you are a Registered Art Therapist, you may then choose to apply to become Board Certified (ATR-BC) which is the highest credential that you can earn as an art therapist. This credential is meant to demonstrate that you have met the challenges of your Art Therapy Masters degree. It also has the advantage of being portable between states. It is accredited by the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

Art Therapy Certified Supervisor

A compelling reason to use Art Therapy Masters degree as a platform for continued education, the Art Therapy Certified Supervisor (ATCS) is a credential offered to Board Certified Art Therapists who have substantial supervision qualifications and re-certify every 5 years.ix

Accreditation: Accredited Art Therapy Schools and Masters Programs

Art Therapy Programs may be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Other counseling graduate programs may be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Accreditation helps potential students to assess the quality of institutions and the programs and services they offer, by measuring them against industry-approved standards.  Find only accredited art therapy schools here. 

Search for List of Art Therapy Masters Degree Programs

If you enjoy interacting with others, are looking for an occupation that allows you to utilize your artistic talents, powers of analysis and observation, leverage your strengths by looking for Art Therapy Masters Programs and graduate schools. Review the sponsored program listings here, or filter your options by selecting your preferred program format and, if relevant, location. Click on the name of a program to read more and request information. Then schedule your visit to any art therapy grad programs you may be interested in, and begin your application!

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