What Is An Art Therapist?
The Evolution Of Art Therapy
During the 1940s, art therapy began to develop as a therapeutic discipline in Europe and the United States. Adrian Hill, a British World War I veteran, discovered art therapy by accident as he spent many days drawing while he was recovering in a tuberculosis sanitorium. Labor statistics and the warring state of the world are thought to have contributed to mental health disorders running rampant at the time. Hill is believed to have been the first to coin the term "art therapy" in his book titled Art Versus Illness.
Edward Adamson built on Hill's work, using it in mental health hospitals. Adamson often encouraged patients to create art for self-expression, not necessarily to be interpreted by therapists, but for personal growth and benefit.
Psychologist Margaret Naumburg was one of the first U.S. pioneers in art therapy. Naumburg often encouraged her patients to use free association to release their unconscious thoughts and feelings, which she believed were representative of symbolic speech. Her patients frequently interpreted and analyzed their results.
Dr. Edith Kramer was another U.S. pioneer in art therapy. Austrian-born Kramer founded the first art therapy program at New York University in 1944.
The greatest time of growth for art therapy is often thought to have occurred during the mid-1950s, when it gradually became accepted as a beneficial clinical discipline that could be effective for all types of growth in children. Today, expressive arts therapy can be an important tool for assessing and treating people of all ages and can even be effectively used within families.
What To Look For In An Art Therapist
By having a better understanding of what's required to be an art therapist, it may be easier to evaluate whether art therapy would be a good fit for your needs. An art therapist is generally a mental health professional and an artist, but the focus of their education is almost always on mental health.
The minimum education level for an art therapist is typically a master's degree in art therapy from an American Art Therapy Association (AATA)-accredited program. Depending on where they practice, the art therapist may also be required to obtain state licenses, AATA certification, or both, and abide by all ethical standards set by the AATA.
It's usually not necessary for art therapists to be gifted artists. However, helping and healing others through art therapy normally requires art therapists to have a foundational understanding of visual art. You should expect your art therapist to practice with various art mediums, such as painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery-making, and other art forms.
The practice of art therapy usually requires education in human development, counseling theory, and therapeutic techniques. Art therapists should generally have the training to successfully guide their patients through the creative process and educate them on how it works to improve well-being.
Where Can I Find An Art Therapist?
Art therapists may work in many different therapeutic and community settings. Here are several of the most common settings for art therapy treatment.
Medical and psychiatric hospitals and clinics
Outpatient treatment facilities, including colleges and universities
Nursing homes and assisted living communities
Rehabilitation care units
Clinical research facilities
The client’s personal residence
What Does An Art Therapy Session Look Like?
Art therapists sometimes work alone, but mental health disorders can be complex to treat. For this reason, art therapists more commonly work as part of a multi-disciplinary team that may include a combination of doctors, nurses, rehabilitation staff, social workers, and teachers.
Just as it can be important to understand what an art therapist does, it can also be important to know what they don't do in their job. An art therapist usually doesn't teach art and doesn't critique the client's art.
How And Why Does Art Therapy Work?
Art therapy usually works in two distinct ways. Art therapists may use it as a way for patients to express themselves freely, much like Hill and Adamson did in the 1940s. Art therapists may guide the activities, but they normally don't critique the client's work or attempt to analyze it. It can merely be a way for clients to turn their thoughts and emotions into an art form.
The second way that art therapy can prove beneficial is for the art therapist to choose an art project that allows the patient to create art while thinking about the process and the medium. This form of art therapy may help people develop skills that increase their cognitive ability, increase awareness of themselves and their interactions with others, and use art as therapy and coping mechanism.
There may be an infinite number of ideas for art therapy projects. When interviewing a potential therapist, you might ask for some examples of their favorite projects and why they think they can be helpful.
How Do I Know If An Art Therapist Can Help?
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy can be useful as a form of psychotherapy for those who experience trauma or illness, have difficulty coping with the challenges of daily life, and desire a sense of personal fulfillment.
Art therapy can be especially helpful for the following:
Trauma-related issues resulting from neglect, abuse, combat, or natural disaster
Traumatic brain injuries
Severe stress and anxiety
Behavioral disorders in children
In addition to treating individuals, art therapists may also work with couples who need help with emotional conflicts and families that need help healing relationships.
Online Art Therapy
You may find qualified art therapists with specialized education within your own community. You can also find online art therapists who practice virtually. As this study shows, art therapy delivered online can be effective in improving mental health. Online therapy may be more accessible for those in remote areas or those who do not have art therapists in their local area. Attending therapy from the comfort of home may also remove some of the anxiety that can come from connecting with a therapist in person.
Art therapy practitioners may treat a range of people in their practice, from those who desire a higher quality of life to those with complex psychological challenges. Art therapy can work well as a stand-alone therapy and as a component of other physical and mental health treatment programs, and it can be completed in person or online.
Commonly Asked Questions
Is art therapy a real career?
Yes, art therapy can be a real career. A board-certified art therapist often uses the creative process to counsel their clients and usually has a master’s degree in art or a degree in art therapy, as well as board certification from the American Art Therapy Association.
What skills do art therapists need?
Art therapists typically need extensive knowledge of psychology and the behavioral sciences. Their training often involves a combination of the creative process and art therapy techniques. They may work in a clinical setting for hands-on learning about how art therapy can influence human behavior or reduce stress for those receiving this type of therapy. Their education usually involves psychology research, the artistic process, and how to develop art therapy programs. This usually culminates in an art therapy degree or master’s degree in art therapy.
Is becoming an art therapist worth it?
An art therapy career can be highly rewarding. If you love the creative process of artwork and would enjoy counseling others to heal and develop self-awareness through the medium of art, you may find a lot of meaning in this field.
What are the 4 types of art therapy?
Can an art therapist diagnose?
Where do art therapists get paid the most?
What are the disadvantages of art therapy?
Is art therapy a good career?
Are art therapists in high demand?
Is becoming an art therapist hard?
What are the 3 uses of art therapy?
What happens in the brain during art therapy?
What does an art therapist do on a daily basis?
What activities are done in art therapy?
What are some examples of art therapy?
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