Art Therapy - a good career choice?
January 28, 2009 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone tell me about the professional status and career prospects of an Art Therapist?

I understand this is a relatively new field of psychotherapy. I'm trying to find out if it has much professional credibility - or is it seen as slightly "New Age-y" and non-scientific by qualified psychologists, health professionals and the like?

Can anyone tell me about their own or others' experience as an Art Therapist, in terms of:
- length and difficulty of training?
- availability of jobs?

I know one has to have both Fine Arts training & counselling experience - but is it regarded more as a health profession or a creative practice?

I'm looking for personal or anecdotal perspectives, beyond what is available on Google... thanks!
posted by Weng to Work & Money (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Totally anecdotal. As I was starting a psych program at a major university, I got to meet lots of students who wanted to do something different with their psych degree.

I met this student who wanted to do art therapy. She had to explain it to me (which really didn't work out since I kept asking questions) because I had never heard of it before. I became friends with one of her friends and was always able to say "So how's XXX doing?".

I asked her about what she wanted to do shortly before graduation and she flat out told me:
"I want to look at kids drawings and find out who has been abused or what kind of pains they were going through".

Ummm yeah. I always thought she was a bit nutty...but I didn't think she was crazy.

So she graduated with a BFA and BA in Psych. NEVER found a job in that field, and after all the psych profs would find out that is what she wanted to do, they kinda turned on her and gave her no recommendations.

Most people (even frosh psych majors) don't understand that psychology is a science, NOT a subjective art. This type of "psychology" doesn't really rely on objective thought.

Now...do you want to do the kind of art therapy that has people focusing on art in order to progress to a better well-being....or do you want to be the art therapist like my friend's friend who wanted to CSI some watercolors?

BIG FREAKING DIFFERENCE.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:32 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anecdote, but:
My university use to have a music therapy program that actually got some impressive results with special education and some national attention.

They shut it down because graduates were unable to find work.

That's not to say you can't incorporate art or music into counseling (or educational psychology, or special ed), but it is MUCH easier to find work with a more traditional Master's in Counseling or a related area and then bring in your own unique skills once you're established. A lot of group care situations will encourage counselors to do workshops that teach clients to express themselves in unique ways, but to do that you first have to be a licensed counselor. Or special ed instructor, or other relevant position.
posted by Benjy at 9:51 PM on January 28, 2009


Again, anecdotal, but I laughed (inadvertently) at the group of three girls who told me they were art therapists. I assumed they were making some sort of joke. This did not go over well.
posted by squorch at 9:55 PM on January 28, 2009


Anecdote: I've known people with undergrad Psych/Art degrees and Masters degrees in art therapy who have found work as art therapists. I haven't heard any of them discuss their work as their version of CSI. It just seems to be about letting people express their feelings safely and creatively through art.

Here in Toronto, CAMH, a major psychiatric hospital, includes art therapy in its offerings. My impression is not that there's any huge demand for certified art therapists, as some of this work may be done by counsellors from a variety of backgrounds, but that some institutions in some areas of North America and Europe may offer programs that require those skills. Why don't you try to find some institutions that offer art therapy and talk to them about the kind of training they're looking for?
posted by maudlin at 4:14 AM on January 29, 2009


I've painted in two therapists office, including the current, it gives a picture of it all that I can't say maybe, I don't know, it's a big part of how I communicate, it's a big piece of who I am and I want to bring that, I've taken in fistfuls of paintings when I'm flying manic and it's really flowing, show and tell maybe, I don't know or care why but it's important to me and they've wanted to see it, I mean if I was a baker I'd bring you bread, right?
posted by dancestoblue at 5:39 AM on January 29, 2009


When I read 'Art Therapy' I acutally think of the recreational-for-the-elderly jobs I have seen postings for. I cannot think of the name of the field. Recreational therapy? It's not 100% the same as what your'e looking for, but I know there are jobs for this. As the population ages, it gets better.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 5:26 PM on January 29, 2009


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