Top Reasons to Pursue a Career in Art Therapy

Art therapists use creativity and artistic expression to help their clients share feelings and thoughts they cannot communicate through discussion. Art therapists work with different types of people, including adults with mental illnesses and nonverbal children. This guide considers the benefits of pursuing a career in art therapy.

Combining Your Passion With Your Career

Art therapy combines art and psychology. Individuals can find a rewarding career in art therapy if they feel passionate about both of these subjects. You do not need high-level artistic skills to become an art therapist. You simply need creativity and an appreciation for the arts.

Creativity and Variety

Art therapy may bring to mind images of a notebook and colored pencils or paint brushes, but several other forms of art therapy exist too, like sculpting, printmaking, woodworking, ceramics, and mixed media. Art therapists can help patients through several of these art forms, or they can specialize in one technique. Some art therapists also specialize in helping children who have not fully developed their verbal and communication skills.

Art therapy can help many types of people. People struggling with anxiety and depression can use art therapy as a form of release. Patients with cancer or painful physical illnesses may find that art therapy mitigates their symptoms. PTSD patients, prisoners, or veterans struggling to communicate verbally about a past trauma may use art therapy to express their feelings without talking.

Diverse Settings

Considering the variety of art therapy patients, art therapists find work in many settings. For example, professionals can work at hospitals or in senior care centers with people struggling with chronic illnesses and pain.

Art therapy counselors can utilize their expertise at prisons as well. Research shows that art therapy helps prisoners maintain self-confidence, social competence, and emotional control.

professionals work at hospitals, senior care centers, prisons, schools, and more

Research demonstrates that art therapy can also help immensely with addiction. For example, it can encourage self-efficacy within clients and allow them to explore any ambivalent thoughts and feelings they may have towards treatment and recovery. In these settings, therapists may work with patients in groups.

Schools benefit from offering art therapy services too. Children with nonverbal tendencies, autism, and attention deficit disorders all benefit from art therapy, but so do kids without special needs. Art therapy can help students — and especially at-risk students or children from troubled families — communicate their anxieties and struggles with adults.

Sometimes art therapists work as self-employed professionals, running their own private practice. In this case, they can help people struggling with different conditions like depression and/or eating disorders.

Helping Others

Broadly, the goal of art therapy is to help people live more fulfilling lives. Art therapy helps people convey their thoughts, emotions, struggles, and traumas through an artistic medium rather than through conversation. Some people, like autistic patients, may simply not possess the ability to communicate verbally. For others, verbal communication might seem too painful. Therefore, art therapists can teach patients how to process conflict and internal suffering.

Art therapy helps people convey their thoughts, emotions, struggles, and traumas through an artistic medium rather than through conversation

Art therapy can also help people beat self-destructive habits and behaviors. Art encourages people to think introspectively, and people need to look inward in order to confront their own self-sabotaging thoughts and actions. In addition, people who engage in self-harm can occupy themselves and their hands with creative art, a tactile and physical activity.

Finally, art therapy can result in unexpected advantages in addition to its psychological benefits. When art therapists share their artistic passion through their work, this sometimes inspires creativity and a new love for art within patients too.

Job Stability and Satisfaction

A 2019 study found that art therapists generally feel more satisfied in their jobs than psychologists and social workers. Art counselors often find this job satisfaction through a challenging occupation that results in a tangible impact in people's lives. The job provides intellectual stimulation and requires counselors to use problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Art therapists make a mean annual wage of about $57,680, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Art counselors often find this job satisfaction through a challenging occupation that results in a tangible impact in people's lives

Although becoming an art therapist comes with many benefits, people thinking about pursuing this career should consider the drawbacks too. Working with clients with serious pain or mental health issues can feel draining, especially if patients feel resistance or show slow progress. In addition, the same study that found art therapists hold high job satisfaction also discovered that art therapists experienced a lower professional collective self-esteem.

Still, art therapists greatly value helping clients mitigate intense pain or overcome mental serious struggles. For these professionals, this process motivates them to keep working and making a difference in people's lives.

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