Steps to Becoming a Professional Art Therapist

Steps to Becoming a Professional Art Therapist

Are you passionate about art and helping others? Becoming a professional art therapist may be the perfect career path for you. In this article, we will explore the necessary steps to take in order to become a qualified art therapist. From obtaining the right education and training to gaining practical experience, we will guide you through the process of becoming a successful art therapist. Read on to learn more about this rewarding and fulfilling career.

Education and Training

Earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field

To become a professional art therapist, the first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field. This could include psychology, counseling, or art. A strong foundation in these areas will provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue a career in art therapy.

Complete a master’s degree in art therapy

After completing a bachelor’s degree, the next step is to pursue a master’s degree in art therapy. This specialized program will focus on the theory and practice of using art as a therapeutic tool. A master’s degree is typically required for certification and licensure as an art therapist.

Obtain supervised clinical experience

In addition to formal education, aspiring art therapists must complete supervised clinical experience. This hands-on training allows students to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting under the guidance of experienced professionals. This experience is essential for developing the skills and confidence needed to work with clients in a therapeutic setting.

Licensure and Certification

When pursuing a career as a professional art therapist, it is important to understand the licensure and certification requirements in order to practice legally and ethically.

Become licensed as a professional counselor or therapist

One of the first steps in becoming a professional art therapist is to become licensed as a professional counselor or therapist. This typically involves completing a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours, and passing a licensing exam. Each state has its own specific requirements for licensure, so it is important to research and understand the requirements in the state where you plan to practice.

Obtain certification as an art therapist

In addition to obtaining a license as a counselor or therapist, many art therapists also choose to obtain certification as an art therapist. The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) offers the Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential, which requires a master’s degree in art therapy or a related field, completion of supervised clinical hours, and passing a certification exam. Some employers may require or prefer candidates who hold this certification, so it can be a valuable credential to have.

Maintain licensure and certification through continuing education

Once you have obtained your licensure and certification as an art therapist, it is important to maintain them through continuing education. This may involve taking additional courses, attending workshops or conferences, and staying informed about the latest research and best practices in the field. Continuing education helps ensure that you are providing the best possible care to your clients and staying current with the evolving field of art therapy.

Skill Development

To become a professional art therapist, it is essential to focus on skill development in various areas. Here are some key skills that you should work on to succeed in this field:

Develop strong communication and interpersonal skills

Art therapists must have excellent communication skills to effectively work with clients and understand their needs. It is important to be able to listen actively, express empathy, and establish a rapport with clients to create a safe and supportive environment for therapy sessions.

Enhance creativity and artistic abilities

Being creative and having strong artistic abilities are essential for art therapists as they use art as a medium for therapy. By continuously honing your artistic skills and exploring new creative techniques, you can better connect with clients and help them express themselves through art.

Gain experience working with diverse populations

Art therapists work with individuals from various backgrounds and with different needs. It is crucial to gain experience working with diverse populations to understand cultural differences, social contexts, and individual preferences. This will enable you to tailor your therapeutic approach to meet the unique needs of each client effectively.


Becoming a professional art therapist is a rewarding and fulfilling journey that requires dedication, education, and experience. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can take the necessary steps to achieve your goal of helping others through the power of art. Remember to continue to learn and grow in your field, seek out opportunities for hands-on experience, and network with other professionals in the field. With perseverance and passion, you can make a positive impact on the lives of those in need through art therapy.