Art Therapy

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What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship. Art therapy, facilitated by a professional credentialed and/or licensed art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and identity development, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, advance societal and ecological change, and more! Art therapy is an effective treatment modality for any concern or presenting issues.  

Who are Art Therapists?

Art therapists are master-level clinicians who work with people of all ages across a broad spectrum of practice. Guided by ethical standards and scope of practice, their education and supervised training prepares them for culturally proficient work with diverse populations in a variety of settings. Honoring individuals’ values and beliefs, art therapists work with people who are challenged with medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth. Depending on state to state, art therapists are either licensed or credentialed. In the state of Virginia, starting July 1st 2020, art therapists will be licensed and have title protection. Visit  

How does it work?

Through integrative methods, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit. Kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic opportunities invite alternative modes of receptive and expressive communication. In art therapy, we give visual form to feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This can be a safer way to explore the hurt we are suffering from. Art can become a way of externalizing your internal world in a healthy, cathartic way. Art therapy bridges traditional talk therapy with a variety of art materials and processes that enrich the total psychological experience. It functions as a mediator, just like the therapist, to help aid the client confront issues that are not always readily accessible with words alone.  

Art Therapy Credentialing

National requirements to practice art therapy include a minimum of a master’s degree from an approved program and extensive post‐graduate clinical supervision under a credentialed art therapist. Art therapy master’s level education requires a minimum of 60 semester credit hours of graduate level coursework that includes training in human, psychological and personality development; clinical art therapy assessment; the creative process; psycho-‐diagnostics; individual, group and family therapy; research methods; multicultural diversity; studio art; ethics; supervised practicums and art therapy internships. The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) was founded to protect the public by promoting the competent and ethical practice of Art Therapy. It manages the credentialing and testing processes of art therapists (in alignment with the AATA) to ensure the professional and high-caliber practice of the profession. Registered Art Therapist (ATR) is the credential that ensures an art therapist has successfully completed specific graduate- level education in art therapy and gained supervised, post-graduate clinical experience. Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC) is the highest-level Art Therapy credential. ATR-BCs pass a national examination demonstrating comprehensive knowledge of the theories and clinical skills used in Art Therapy

All information on this page was written by: Amber Golden, M.S., LPC, ATR, clinician and art therapist at Tandem Mental Health Associates 

Helpful and informative resources that were used to write this article: