Art therapists are mental health professionals who use the therapeutic benefits of creating art in combination with traditional counseling methods. They guide their clients in self-expression as way to develop coping techniques, work through problems, become more self-aware, and generally improve mental and physical health. Art therapist jobs can involve working with clients of any age. Some of the settings in which they can be found include hospitals, correction facilities, substance abuse centers, private practice, schools, and community centers.
Most art therapist jobs require having a master's degree, although there are some assistant positions available for individuals with only a bachelor's degree. Schooling includes training in traditional psychological theories, counseling methods, and assessment of mental illness. Students also learn about various art techniques and how to implement them in a therapeutic setting. Some US states have legal requirements for the education of a practicing art therapist.
Hospitals, clinics, and residential care facilities are the biggest employers of art therapists. In these settings, art therapist jobs may involve working as a team with other professionals, including doctors and social workers. They might treat a wide variety of clients or focus on a specific population, such as psychiatric patients, children with chronic illnesses, or the elderly. Art therapy is often provided as a beneficial leisure activity in residential facilities. Sessions can be done one-on-one or by leading a group.
Substance abuse centers are another place where art therapist jobs can be found. Techniques are used to help clients express themselves and become more aware of the underlying issues of their addictions. Clients can also be taught healthy coping mechanisms, including how to develop personal relationships, through the use of art.
Educational institutions of all levels employ art therapists. They are commonly found working with disabled students in special education programs. Creative expression is a very useful tool for counseling with children who have behavioral, social, or learning difficulties. It can help children to open up about traumatic experiences and negative family environments when they don't know how to communicate their feelings verbally. Art therapist jobs in higher education also include teaching and academic research.
In private practice, art therapy is closely related to traditional individual and family counseling. It usually involves working with clients who have mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These art therapists typically offer private sessions, although they may also organize and lead group activities.