Art Therapy: A Creative and Fulfilling Career Path

If you have a passion for art and a desire to help others, then art therapy may be the perfect career path for you. Art therapy is the use of art making and the creative process to help improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, build and improve social skills, promote self-esteem and improve emotional expression

In this article, we’ll explore what art therapy is, the skills required to become an art therapist, the benefits of pursuing this career path, and how to get started.

The Role of an Art Therapist 

Art therapy is a form of therapy that uses art-making as a way to promote healing, personal growth, and self-expression.

Art therapists work with individuals, couples, families, and groups of all ages, using a variety of art materials to facilitate the therapeutic process. While a play therapist may use some play based activities in their sessions when suitable, Art Therapy focuses on using art media to help children visually express emotions and communicate through creative expression. One of the key principles of art therapy is the idea that the process of making art is just as important as the final product.

Art therapy can be used to address a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and addiction, at Always keep Progressing our we use art therapy to help children communicate their thoughts and ideas visually and without using words as well as improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions.

The art therapist’s role is to create a safe and supportive environment to allow for increased creativity and expression. 

The art therapist thinks of appropriate directives to engage clients and help them achieve their goals. Some of the goals of the art directives may be to help with emotional expression, socialization, build their self-esteem and improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions. It is important for art therapists to engage in active listening, behavior observation and empathy in order to build a safe and supportive environment for the client. 

Therapists can work in a range of settings, including but not limited to: 

  • In and out-patient hospitals
  • Private or group practices
  • Schools
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Shelters
  • Client’s homes
  • Day treatment centers. 

Education and Training 

Art therapists must attend an accredited art therapy masters program, completing supervision and direct client contact hours post graduation. This includes training in

  • the creative process,
  • psychological development,
  • group therapy,
  • art therapy assessment,
  • psychodiagnostics,
  • research methods, and
  • multicultural competency development and cultural humility.

Art therapists must then pass their exam in order to become board certified, registered art therapists’. 

Students pursuing a career in art therapy must complete a minimum of 100 hours of supervised practicum and 600 hours of supervised clinical internship in art therapy. Moreover, prior preparatory training is a prerequisite and should cover different techniques and media, such as drawing, painting, digital art, clay or sculpture, among others. However, not all of these techniques are necessarily required for program applications. Hence, it’s important to verify specific program requirements before applying.

Apart from art training, psychology is another crucial area of study, which serves as a foundation for graduate studies in art therapy. Graduate programs in this field require students to have completed at least one prerequisite course in developmental psychology, and abnormal psychology. Notably, the graduate curriculum in art therapy is unique in that it’s premised on the belief that focused art-making constitutes reflective practice, which facilitates learning.

There are a range of art therapy programs offered nation-wide all of which are listed on the American Art Therapy Association website.

Licensing requirements for each state are listed on the and board certification requirements and exams are on the Art Therapy Credentials Board website.

In addition to these technical skills, art therapists must possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills. They must be able to establish a rapport with clients, create a safe and supportive environment, and provide guidance and feedback throughout the therapeutic process.

Job Outlook and Salary 

As the demand for mental health services continues to rise, the need for art therapists is also increasing. The overall outlook for Art Therapist careers has been positive for several years, with vacancies in this profession increasing, by 32.76% nationwide since 2004. This represents an average annual growth of 2.05%. 

Looking forward, the demand for art therapists is to increase drastically with an expected 26,660 new jobs filled by 2029. An annual growth of 27.58% in the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) attributes this growth to the increasing recognition of art therapy as a viable form of treatment for various mental health issues.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides valuable data regarding the average salary earned by recreational therapists, which includes art therapists. According to BLS, the national average income for recreational therapists is $47,940 per annum.

According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), art therapists can expect to earn an average annual salary of $40,000 to $85,000, depending on their level of education, years of experience, and geographic location. Art therapists who work in private practice or who hold supervisory positions may earn more than those who work in other settings.

It is important to note that salaries can vary significantly based on factors such as location, industry, and demand. Art therapists who work in metropolitan areas or in high-demand fields such as addiction and trauma therapy may earn higher salaries than those who work in rural areas or in less specialized fields.

You can find lots of helpful information about Art Therapist salaries in different states here –

Skills and Qualities Needed for Success

Art therapists should be organized, creative, compassionate, empathic, patient and caring individuals. Therapists should be willing to adapt based on the client’s needs and situations. Art therapists should also be willing to continue to learn more about the field and ways of working with different clients and populations through continuing education and supervision. 

Finding art therapists in your area via ( or contacting your local art therapy association for your state ( or networking  at the annual conference ( 

Gaining experience through your internship and being in close contact with your supervisor can be  a great way to grow and gain experience as an art therapist. 

Challenges and Rewards of the Profession

Working as an art therapist can be an incredibly rewarding profession where you are able to positively impact the lives of individuals who may not be  able to receive the same support in different settings. 

Art therapy provides a unique and creative way to help people improve their mental health and well-being. Art therapists can work with a wide range of clients, from children to older adults, and can address a variety of mental health issues.

Another benefit of pursuing a career in art therapy is the flexibility it offers. Art therapists can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, and private practices. They can also work with a variety of populations, including individuals, couples, families, and groups.

Finally, pursuing a career in art therapy can be personally fulfilling. Art therapists have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of their clients, helping them to achieve personal growth and healing through the creative process of making art.

Some challenges of being an art therapist include high caseloads in most settings where therapists can be underpaid and valued, often leading to burnout. 

Constant self awareness and work is required from a therapist which may be expensive and is often not covered by employers. 


Art therapy is a creative and fulfilling career path that offers many benefits. Art therapists use the creative process of making art to help people improve their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. To become an art therapist, you will need a combination of artistic and therapeutic skills, as well as excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Pursuing a career in art therapy can be personally rewarding, as you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of your clients. If you are interested in pursuing a career in art therapy, the first step is to obtain the education and licensure required.

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