How do I Choose the Best Schools for Art Therapy?

A. Rohlandt

There are a few considerations when choosing schools for art therapy: the qualification you wish to obtain, the accreditation of the school, the length of study, and the school's approach to art therapy. Additional considerations include the costs involved, assistance in registering with a professional association, and whether the school offers assistance with placements or internship programs.

Art therapy encourages people to create art as part of a therapeutic process.
Art therapy encourages people to create art as part of a therapeutic process.

When choosing between schools for art therapy, consider your career goals. Teachers, social workers, and counselors sometimes wish to obtain training in art therapy in order to better serve their clients. In these situations, a certificate or short course might be sufficient. Someone who wishes to become a licensed and qualified art therapist will have to earn a degree to be able to practice.

Some schools where you can study art therapy offer options, ranging from short courses to a master's degree. If you want to become an art therapist you have two options: most art therapy schools offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and each should take about two years to complete. Some schools offer a five-year program that combines both degrees, but this is less common.

US-based art therapy schools should be accredited by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). AATA provides the educational, ethical, and professional standards for art therapists in the US. The British equivalent is the British Association for Art Therapists (BAAT). Choose an accredited school, especially if you want to practice professionally.

The length of study can vary since certificate programs can be completed in a matter of weeks, while master's degrees can take up to five years to complete. Consider your career goals, as this will directly affect the training you need. You should be prepared to study for at least four years if you want to become an art therapist.

When choosing between schools for art therapy, verify that the school's approach is compatible with your own views. Some schools focus on the therapist's growth as well as that of the client because some believe that the therapist's development is linked directly to the well-being of the client. Other schools may focus only on the use of art to help the client.

Investigate the expenses associated with each school you consider. Some schools offer assistance in obtaining student loans or may provide financial assistance, and this might influence your decision. There may also be added expenses such as kits used for training or textbooks.

Registration with professional associations is another key consideration, especially if you want to practice professionally. The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) requires a formal examination in order to register. Some art therapy schools assist students with registration and actively encourage students to take the examination.

Most art therapy studies require some form of practical training, and some require as many as 800 practical hours. Some art therapy schools provide assistance with placement and internships, and this makes it easier to obtain the practical experience needed to graduate. The location of the school may be important as well since schools in metropolitan areas may be able to provide more internship opportunities.

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