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So You Want to be an Art Therapist, Part One: Art Therapy as a Career Path

Seriously, can you make a living as an art therapist in the 21st century?

My last series of posts focused on the "top ten coolest art therapy interventions" historically and currently used in the field of art therapy. I didn't realize by the end of that series that I would be receiving so many emails asking, "just how do I become an art therapist." I am inspired and impressed that so many readers became interested in art therapy as a result. On the other hand, due to all the unexpected email traffic I had to take some time off from writing this blog to do some research on "art therapist" as a career path in 2011, both nationally and internationally. After talking to and/or reading the responses of over 100 colleagues around the US and the world, I learned quite a bit of new information about art therapy as a career path that I am eager to share with those of you who want to be an art therapist.

There is already a lot of information on the topic of art therapy as a career on the websites of professional guilds and membership associations and via some excellent descriptions by the National Institutes of Health and the American Medical Association. What these sites do not provide is a complete picture of the influence of mental health and healthcare fields and healthcare reforms on art therapy, and the rapid evolution in the ways art therapy services are delivered and by whom (because it is not always an art therapist who is delivering them-more about that later in this series). That is what I will fill you in on so that you can make an informed decision about undertaking the cost of education, internship hours, and credentials needed to practice.

So in the next several posts I will be giving potential students a realistic overview of how to prepare for a career as an art therapist and how to decide if it is the profession for you. I'll be talking more specifically about the practice of art therapy in two parts of the world: the US and the United Kingdom; these regions happen to be the most developed in terms of art therapy education and professional recognition. I will also be including information about related fields-- arts in healthcare, creative arts in counseling, play therapy, and expressive arts therapies-- to help you understand the similarities and differences between art therapy and these closely related areas. Finally, I hope to put everything into perspective with regard to today's mental health and healthcare settings so that if you decide to pursue a career in art therapy, you will be as knowledgeable as possible about the job market, what to expect and what the return on your investment will be. Until then...

Be well,

Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPAT, LPCC

© 2011 Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT

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