Art Therapy Certification and Certificate Programs

Art therapy is a tool used in counseling and psychotherapy that allows patients to use art to express themselves. Certificate programs provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to practice art therapy and can help qualify graduates for state credentials. Art therapy certifications are available to students who have education and/or clinical experience in art therapy.

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Art Therapy Certificate Programs

Art therapy certificate programs are intended for mental health professionals interested in using the creation and discussion of art for psychotherapy, counseling, education and rehabilitation. Art therapists employ painting, drawing and sculpting and other creative outlets to draw out an uncommunicative or difficult-to-read patient. Art therapy certificate programs are most commonly offered at the post-master's level.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants to art therapy certificate programs usually possess a master's or doctoral degree in a related field, like psychology or social work. Although certificate programs that require only a bachelor's degree for admission are available, a master's degree will eventually be required for credentialing in the field. Post-baccalaureate programs are designed to help prepare students for art therapy master's programs, not to allow them direct entry into the career. Most programs have requirements regarding prior coursework, usually including a combination of art and psychology courses. Additionally, schools commonly expect applicants to have a strong background in counseling therapy.

Course Topics

Courses in art therapy certificate programs provide students with an understanding of the tools and methods used in this form of therapy. Certificate programs also train students to employ art therapy in a variety of different types of clinical settings. The following list outlines some of the common course topics offered in a program:

  • Assessment and diagnosis in art therapy
  • Counseling in art therapy
  • Employing art therapy with children
  • Group art therapy
  • Psychopathology
  • Techniques and materials of art therapy
  • Theory and history of art therapy

Popular Career Options

Earning an art therapy certificate can be useful for a wide variety of human service professionals. While some choose to practice art therapy as their primary function, others incorporate it as one of several tools for helping people. Possible careers include:

  • Art therapist
  • Social worker
  • Psychologist
  • Counselor

Credentialing Information

As a subset of recreational therapy, art therapy can be credentialed in either specialty. Credentialing regulations vary from state to state and might include licensure or registration requirements. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) offers voluntary certification to recreational therapists, including the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) designation for those who have at least a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy or sufficient experience working in the field under a CTRS (www.nctrc.org).

Upon completing a post-master's certificate in art therapy, it's possible to become a Registered Art Therapist (ATR) through the Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. (ATCB). In addition to coursework in art therapy, ATR registration also requires documentation of supervised clinical experience (www.atcb.org). Therapists with an ATR certification can later choose to earn a Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC) designation by completing a national examination that tests a candidate's understanding of the clinical skills and theories utilized in art therapy practice. Additionally, the Art Therapy Credentials Board offers board-certified art therapists the opportunity to become Art Therapy Certified Supervisors (ATCS).

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