In a previous post, I wrote about my “quarter-life crisis” and deciding to drop my majors to study psychology and art instead. I chose those two areas after hearing about a relatively new field that is gaining popularity in the psychology world: art therapy.
Art therapy is one of several alternative forms of therapy that is being used to offer different options for those seeking help and those looking to provide it. The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as, “…a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, and increase self-esteem.”
Art therapy is a unique interdisciplinary field that brings together both creative activities and counseling techniques into a single process. Art therapists need to have knowledge of visual art, the creative process, counseling practice, and human development. Being an art therapist requires completing a master’s or doctoral program in art therapy, which typically ask for prerequisite coursework in psychology and art (meaning it’s probably best to study both as an undergraduate). While you need artistic knowledge, neither therapist nor client needs to be the next van Gogh (especially with the cutting the ear off thing). Art therapy is about using the creative process and creative expression in the healing, recovery, or discovery process, not creating the next Starry Night.
The techniques used in art therapy can be used with any age group and can be used individually or in a group setting. Art therapists work in private practices, community outreach programs, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and countless other environments. The client(s) can use paint, clay, pencils, crayons, or any other artistic medium you can think of.
As I alluded to, there are several other alternative therapy methods out there, including wilderness therapy, music therapy, pet therapy, dance therapy, and pretty much anything else you could imagine. If you want to work in this field but are not particularly interested in the traditional therapy process, maybe one of these unique options is for you!