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Becoming an Art Therapist

Aug 28, 2020

More than the beauty of its mystery, the massive benefits of art to a person's physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is worth a great deal. Art serves as a means for communicating what the mind and heart can't express in words.

If you believe in the power of art to transform people's lives, then perhaps you were carved out to become an art therapist. Art therapists use their combined knowledge of counselling and the arts to help improve people's physical, mental and emotional health.

How Does Art Therapy Heal?

Drawing, painting, sculpting and several other types of art media help people tap into their inner thoughts. They unconsciously unearth concealed emotions that have been influencing their beliefs, actions and ideas for the longest time. Through the help of an art therapist, a person can achieve many positive things with art therapy, including:

  • Express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise
  • Develop healthy coping skills
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence
  • Improve communication skills
  • Improve motor skills and coordination
  • Identify blockages to emotional expression and personal growth

What is an Art Therapist?

An art therapist employs a creative process to motivate their clients to explore their thoughts and feelings that are holding them back from maximising their potential and living their desired lives. You don't have to be a professional artist, nor do you need to be an art teacher to be a qualified art therapist. 

All it takes to be successful in this field are good listening skills and a firm belief in the healing power of arts to improve lives. 

What are the Important Qualifications of Art Therapists?

To be a registered art therapist, you have to complete a Bachelor of Arts Therapy, followed by a two-year Master of Arts Therapy. If you already hold a relevant social science degree, such as counselling or psychology, you may proceed with your postgraduate education.

After graduation, you must complete a minimum of 750 hours of supervised clinical placement and then register with the Australian, New Zealand and Asian Creative  Arts Therapies Association (ANZACATA).

Studying with a Qualified Art Therapy School

Many colleges and universities offer courses in art therapy. They range from short weekend courses to graduate-level programs. The secret formula for landing in the best school is identifying which institutions offer courses that meet the educational standards of ANZACATA. 

Once you have them on your list, narrow down your choices to those that are VET Student Loans (VSL) approved. VSL is a government loan that assists students enrolled in vocational education and training (VET) courses. Taking advantage of this federal loan ensures you complete your studies without the financial burden.

The Ikon Institute of Australia offers art therapy courses that aren't only recognised by ANZACATA, but they're also approved by the VSL program. You can start with a one-year diploma course then gradually work your way up to a bachelor's program.

You can also check out the offered Advanced Diploma of Transpersonal Art Therapy program by College of Complementary Medicine.

Where Do Art Therapists Work?

Art therapists work with all types of people regardless of age, gender or cultural background. Their career paths are wide and varied. After completing your studies, you have the option to work in your preferred environment, including:

  • Hospital
  • Community health centre
  • Rehabilitation centre
  • School
  • Forensic facility
  • Aged care facility
  • Private practice

Working as an art therapist is truly an enriching experience which allows you to help people unlock their creativity and resolve deeply-rooted pain and conflicts so that they can heal and move forward with their lives.

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FAQs About Becoming an Art Therapist

How many years of college do you need to become an art therapist?

Your length of study depends on the learning pathway that you choose. A Bachelor of Arts Therapy will take you three years to complete, plus two years in a master's degree program. However, if you're starting with a diploma course, it could take you six to seven years to complete your studies.

Do you have to be an artist to be an art therapist?

Not necessarily. As long as you love art and bear a genuine interest to help people make positive changes to their lives, you'll make an excellent art therapist.

What should I major in to be an art therapist?

To be a qualified art therapist, you should enrol in a Bachelor of Arts Therapy or a relevant course in social science, such as psychology, counselling or social work.

How much money can you make as an art therapist?

An art therapist in Australia can make anywhere from $70K to $80K a year. Since art therapists work in a variety of healthcare settings, their actual salaries depend on the nature of their work, the location of their work and the years they have been practising.

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