Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem, among other goals. A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. Art therapy practice requires knowledge of and skills in usage of visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms) and the creative process, coupled with application of theories and techniques of human development, psychology, and counseling.
A master’s degree is required for entry-level practice in art therapy. The educational requirements include, but are not limited to, theories of art therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy; ethics and standards of practice; assessment and evaluation; individual, group, and family art therapy techniques; human and creative development; multicultural issues; research methods; and internship experiences in clinical, community, and/or other settings.
How do I know if an education program is a quality program? The current educational standards for AATA approved art therapy master’s programs, were established in 2007 and are overseen by the Educational Programs Approval Board (EPAB). These educational requirements for EPAB approved programs remain in place and current or prospective students can review them here. A five-year period of transition is currently under way in which the approval process will transition to an accreditation process under the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The new 2017 educational standards for accredited art therapy programs can be reviewed here. It is important to know that graduation from either a program approved by AATA or a program accredited by CAAHEP will prepare you for a future as a board-certified art therapist.
What if I want to become a board-certified art therapist? Either an approved master’s program or an accredited master’s program will fully prepare you to meet the education requirements necessary to go on to seek board certification. The transition from approval of art therapy programs to accreditation of art therapy programs has no impact on the ability of program graduates to be eligible to become board-certified art therapists. During this period of transition, approved programs will continue to undergo rigorous annual review to ensure they are meeting all aspects of the required educational standards. Programs that become accredited will also undergo a rigorous process of annual review under the updated education standards. Finally, it is important to know there are two different kinds of accreditation – institutional and program. Approved and accredited programs have institutional accreditation while an art therapy program itself can also have either approval or accreditation at the art therapy program level. Institutional accreditation, which includes all programs listed on our website, fully meets requirements for board certification of graduates even as the art therapy program itself is also either approved or accredited.
Where can I find a list of programs? The list of EPAB approved programs is available below. In the future, as programs transition to becoming accredited under CAAHEP, a link will also be provided.
The Education Committee of the American Art Therapy Association and the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education serve the profession of art therapy and the public by fostering communication among educators and providing communication to the public and the profession regarding educational standards and opportunities. If your institution would like assistance in discussing your institution’s education standards, implementing standards within your institution, or other related information please provide your name, phone number, contact information and an overview of the type of assistance you need. Please be sure to designate one contact from your institution to request assistance. The chair of the Education Committee or the chair of ACATE will follow up to fully discuss the assistance you request. Click here to send your request for information.