If you would like a career that uses art and creativity to help others, then think about earning a bachelor's degree in art therapy. A four-year degree allows you to enter the field while preparing you for master's programs and a licence to practice art therapy.
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Why Get a Bachelor's Degree in Art Therapy?
With a bachelor's in art therapy, you can pursue a variety of careers while preparing yourself for more advanced studies that lead to a future as a licenced art therapist.
Allows You to Combine Your Passion for Art With a Career in Helping Others
A four-year art therapy degree empowers you to leverage your talents to help people address and overcome depression, anxiety, substance abuse, trauma, and physical disabilities.
Helps Prepare You for a Graduate Program in Art Therapy
As you pursue a bachelor's degree, you'll learn foundational techniques and build your portfolio to prepare you for a master's in art therapy program. You'll need an advanced degree to become an art therapist.
Equips You With the Skills Needed to Advance Your Career in Both the Art and Counseling Fields
Within your bachelor's program, you can build your drawing, visual art, and artistic expression skills, while also learning about art history, psychology, and art therapy. You need all these skills to find success in a master's program.
Example Courses in an Art Therapy Bachelor's Program
The courses you can expect to take in a bachelor's in art therapy program may vary depending on your school of choice. In general, the curricula cover topics across the arts and psychology. Although much of your major-focused coursework explores arts-related subjects like composition, drawing, and ceramics, you can also learn a great deal about abnormal psychology, counseling, and personality disorders. Combined, these classes offer a breadth of experiences that help prepare you for a graduate degree and an eventual career as an art therapist.
Introduction to Art Therapy
Students gain a foundational understanding of art therapy and its applications and methods. The course covers the history of the discipline, predominant theories, and modern treatment methods. Students engage in readings, exercises, and discussions to help them form their own working definition of art therapy, which can influence their future studies.
This course offers foundational knowledge on psychological disorders, along with their diagnosis, history, and common modern treatment methods. Students also learn about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The course covers the evolving definitions of abnormal behavior over time and how those changes have influenced treatments.
Art Therapy Theories and Methods
Students learn about principles and best practices in clinical art therapy, using materials and artistic expression to examine multiple theories based on sound psychology research. The course looks at numerous examples of art therapy clinical applications and their effectiveness in serving individuals and families from various backgrounds.
Students learn about personality and the ways it reflects people's thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and perspectives. The class looks at historical and modern theories, research, and applications in personality psychology, along with how certain characteristics can affect interpersonal relationships, self-esteem, and aggression.
Art Composition and Color
This course examines the core components and approaches of 2-D design, including the use of lines, dots, shapes, textures, colors, and brightness. Students learn how to leverage these concepts to solve common design problems. The course also covers the cultural aspect of art and design and the psychological effects of colors.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Art Therapy?
Although you need a more advanced degree to practice as a licensed art therapist, a bachelor's degree qualifies you for entry-level jobs that give you a foothold in this dynamic professional field. Many graduates go on to become art therapy assistants, activity coordinators, rehabilitation aides, and life skills counselors. Exciting and fulfilling, these jobs can give you the experience necessary to enter a high-quality art therapy master's program.
Common Work Environments
- Community Health Clinics
- Homeless Shelters
- Summer Camps
Career Advancement in Art Therapy
Pursue a Master's or Ph.D. Program in Art Therapy
To move beyond entry-level careers and become a licensed art therapist in the U.S., you need to earn a master's degree or, in some cases, complete a Ph.D. program. These advanced degrees cover group therapy, neuroscience, and psychotherapy. You must also engage in hundreds of hours of clinical and practicum experiences to supplement your coursework.
Join a Professional Organization
When you join an art therapy professional association, you gain access to resources, continuing education, and networking opportunities that can help you advance in your career. Below, we have listed five of the top organizations for this field:
- American Art Therapy Association AATA promotes the art therapy field, helping professionals collaborate with one another and learn about emerging research, tools, and techniques. The group holds an annual national conference each fall.
- National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations Founded in 1979, this organization supports the role of art therapists in promoting healing, education, and wellness. NCCATA also works to increase access to art therapy for individuals and populations throughout the United States.
- International Expressive Arts Therapy Association IEATA encourages the creative spirit and the use of art to promote healing and wellness. The group features a culturally diverse membership that includes art therapists, teachers, students, counselors, and other professionals.
- Association for Visual Arts This nonprofit organization connects visual artists with one another in personal and innovative ways. The AVA also promotes art as a way to bring communities together across the country.
- American Psychological Association The leading psychology professional association in the U.S., the APA elevates conversations around psychology. The organization also helps its more than 118,000 members engage in continuing education, research, and networking.