Nicely done, Cathy. Hopefully this series will go a long way toward answering many questions (and clearing up misinformation).
There are so, so many questions to be answered as you know. We need to be more honest with prospective students and those who are trying to work in this field called "art therapy." For some, education is a long and expensive road and at the end of it, a graduate may or may not really find that proverbial job as an art therapist. I totally believe in "art therapy;" it's what prospective grads are told or sold, that is something that needs to be seriously clarified.
This topic is so important, yet can be so unclear to many. I really appreciate how you address so many important questions that many propesctive students may not even consider or know to ask.
This is a complicated topic and yes, there are so many questions that prospective students must ask and think about. I am hoping that more art therapy educators/professors/academic advisers begin to also understand what they should discuss with students who are interested in their programs. In order to educate the best generations of art therapists, graduate programs in particular must be honest and forthright with applicants who stand to invest a lot money and time and not to mention, dreams of being an art therapist.
Thank you for your honesty, Cathy! Most of the art therapists I've known (including myself) have had to pick another area of mental health to specialize in, such as mental health counseling. One thing that I've noticed is that it's often helpful to get a master's degree in art therapy from the state that you plan to practice in. Some art therapy education programs have outlined the additional courses that are necessary for state licensing (and a student can be taking those courses during the program). However, several art therapists I've known have had a really difficult time transitioning to a different state that has a different licensing structure... So, I think it's beneficial for prospective students to (at the very least) know where they want to end up, so that they can find out what additional course work they will need in order to get licensed.
Thank you for writing on this much needed topic!
I guess the challenge is this-- some individuals are pretty certain they will stay in one state, close to family perhaps. But so many people make a number of moves, including retirement years when they still might want to practice part-time; if one has a degree in art therapy, it might not be accepted in some states due to the degree title [must be counseling, no matter what courses have been taken]. Which makes me wonder if art therapy degrees will survive or will they become counseling master's degrees? I think that will be a big loss for the field and profession if that happens.
You're right, Cathy... We can't all depend on being able to stay in one state for the rest of our lives- especially in this economy! And yes, I wonder what will happen to our degrees and the state of our profession over time! I know that if I were to start an art therapy program someday, I would push for it to be called something like "Art Therapy and Counseling."
In the meantime... a good project might be for someone to collect information from all of the 50 states and outline the criteria that art therapists need to practice in each state. Maybe it could even be a collaborative effort... I don't have time to do it all, but I would definitely help out with something like that!
thank you so much! as someone who is just begining their education in psychology, it is good to be informed on areas of the field. i have been looking into directions in which i can go, and art therapy was one that i was looking into. thanks for help in that direction!
Thanks for writing! I hope that your "art therapy" search is a good one!
I have been thinking about going back to school to get my degree in Art Therapy for over a year now (I graduated in 2010 with a BFA, emphasis on painting and illustration.) So far, your articles are some of the best reading material I have come across in my attempt to find out more. I want to be prepared to take the best path I can in this field.
It's been disappointing in some ways to hear that Art Therapy is not all that it's made out to be. I have been worrying about picking a school for a variety of reasons - the programs are all different, and the locations are a major factor too. I don't want to settle down in any one place yet - is it really that hard to change from state to state? Should I be looking not for "a place I wouldn't mind living for three years" but instead "a place I wouldn't mind living for the rest of my career"?
THanks so much for your honesty about Art Therapy & your projection about its future. I am a Special needs teacher keen in doing post grad course on Master of Therapy.
You are spot on about the confusion caused by the name titles....
& there are really so many Universities providing courses.
I am teaching in singapore and if I am to pursue a course in USA, I have to make sure the effort & $ spent are worthwhile...
Though the article notes it is difficult to find a correct avenue to pursue for a proper degree in the field of Art Therapy, there is no direct course offered. The bloggers here offer more than the article as far as direction goes. Looks like its back to the old drawing board...
I wish I could say that it was easier, but in art therapy a degree may be in art therapy or counseling or marriage and family therapy or counseling and personnel services or something else entirely. Perhaps some day it is will become more standardized. Art therapy is trying to decide if it will lean toward counseling or lean toward itself-- difficult decisions because the degree title may impact what credentials are available to graduates in many states in the US.
Cathy-thanks so much for this highly informative article. I find your knowledge and experience in art therapy to be invaluable. Art/image making has in no certain terms saved my life and I've known for a while now that I want to become an art therapist. I've been researching various art therapy master's programs here in New York. I understand the differences between the programs themselves. But for me, the issue has always been the cost. I have no idea how I could possibly afford to pay off at minimum what would be $60,000 for graduate school. I have familial obligations first and foremost and I honor those. However, this has been a goal of mine for such a long time and it's disheartening to think I may have to abandon it because of the expense. But I feel like that's where I'm at right now. Wow-this is a depressing post-my apologies I usually am quite optimistic and cheerful!
The costs right now for an art therapy master's degree are quite high in my opinion-- I see several programs now are $85,000 for a degree. The entry salary is not very high, it is just the way mental health professions are in the marketplace. Many art therapy professors believe the field has many jobs; what I think is robust is art therapy education itself. There have been 3 or 4 new grad programs opened just this year. There is a robust market for art therapy education in that numerous bachelor's level art grads see it as a pathway to possible job opportunities. Some attention now needs to be given to job development for a distinct career called "art therapist" in order to sustain the scenario of more and more art therapy grad degrees. It will have to stop somewhere, especially with the price tag becoming so high and unreachable. I certainly couldn't do it at this stage, it is sort of out of reach.
Hi I am a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) which in my stage means I also have a masters in social work. I am looking to possibly get certified in art therapy. The goal would be to offer counseling/therapy in general but also to offer specialized art therapy. Is it possible for me to get certified in art therapy? Would I be able to call myself an "art therapist" with just the certificate and not the master's in art therapy? Thanks in advance for your help with this.
Thank you so much for your article. I'm late to these posts but I'm wondering if you might be open to adding links to the subsequent/preceeding posts in your series. For example, I'm really interested to read the next post (Part III), which is mentioned, but it is difficult to find it without using the search engine each time (and search results don't show up in order). Sometimes related posts show up on the side, but again, not always the next ones. It'd be great if there could be links to all the articles in the series on each article page so one could easily find the earlier and/or later ones without digging around like I just did. Just a technical comment. Thanks!
Cathy Malchiodi is an art therapist, visual artist, independent scholar, and author of 13 books on arts therapies, including The Art Therapy Sourcebook.