Counseling is a process that can help people identify more effective strategies both to cope with difficult situations and to achieve their goals. While some people who seek counseling have chronic emotional difficulties, most are dealing with normal life events and are simply in need of an objective listener – someone who doesn’t judge and who can help them see new alternatives.

About MFTs:

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are licensed mental health professionals who work with individuals; couples whether or not married; families of all types; and groups to cure or relieve mental, emotional, and relational concerns of all kinds. MFTs work in a variety of settings throughout California and the rest of the country providing mental health services, as well as provide services in independent practice. MFTs have minimally acquired two-year masters degrees, 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and have passed two rigorous exams.


About Art Therapy:

Art Therapy is a human service field which encompasses a unique blending of art making and psychology. While creating art for the purposes of expression, communication, spiritual practice, and healing has existed since our earliest ancestors, the merits of art therapy for psychological and physical well-being have evolved since the 1930’s. Art Therapy is a reputable and recognized profession with more information to be found at The American Art Therapy Association ( founded in 1969. Educated and credentialed art therapists, now practicing world-wide, have been providing patients a nonverbal form of communication and expression for thoughts, feelings, and healing that go beyond traditional talk therapy and is successfully utilized with many diverse populations.

 American Art Therapy Association

What is art therapy and when did it begin?

Visual expression has been used for healing throughout history, but art therapy did not emerge as a distinct profession until the 1940s. In the early 20th century, psychiatrists became interested in the artwork created by their patients with mental illness. At around the same time, educators were discovering that children’s art expressions reflected developmental, emotional, and cognitive growth. By mid-century, hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers increasingly began to include art therapy programs along with traditional “talk therapies,” underscoring the recognition that the creative process of art making enhanced recovery, health, and wellness. As a result, the profession of art therapy grew into an effective and important method of communication, assessment, and treatment with children and adults in a variety of settings. Currently, the field of art therapy has gained attention in health-care facilities throughout the United States and within psychiatry, psychology, counseling, education, and the arts.

Definition of art therapy.

Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.

Art therapy integrates the fields of human development, visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms), and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy. Art therapy is used with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, groups, and families to assess and treat the following: anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems and disorders; substance abuse and other addictions; family and relationship issues; abuse and domestic violence; social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness; trauma and loss; physical, cognitive, and neurological problems; and psychosocial difficulties related to medical illness. Art therapy programs are found in a number of settings including hospitals, clinics, public and community agencies, wellness centers, educational institutions, businesses, and private practices.

 Art therapy is a mental health profession.

 Art therapy is most closely aligned to the counseling profession.

 Art therapy history is steeped in psychoanalytical theory but today art therapists embrace all theories of counseling and therapy.

 Today art therapy is often more client-centered, allowing children and adults to decide and discern what their needs are in an atmosphere of support and safety.

 With children, making art normalizes what they are currently experiencing in their lives.

 Art therapy taps into the innate human need for art and beauty.

What is the purpose?

Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve, enhance, and maintain the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and selfawareness, and achieve insight.

Where and when is it used?

Art therapists work in a wide variety of settings, including, but not limited to, the following:

 Hospitals and clinics, both medical and psychiatric

 Out-patient mental health agencies and day treatment facilities

 Residential treatment centers

 Halfway houses

 Domestic violence and homeless shelters

 Community agencies and nonprofit settings

 Sheltered workshops

 Schools, colleges, and universities

 Correctional facilities

 Elder care facilities

 Art studios

 Private practice

An art therapist may work as part of a team that includes physicians, psychologists, nurses, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, rehabilitation counselors, social workers, and teachers. Together, they determine and implement a client’s therapeutic goals and objectives. Other art therapists work independently and maintain private practices with children, adolescents, adults, groups, and/or families.

Art therapy and the art therapist’s contributions to a treatment team.

 Historically art therapists had always worked on a treatment team in a hospital or


 Many times the art therapist presented the client’s or patient’s “point of view” through their artwork.

 Art therapy evaluates strengths.

 Art therapy can break through defenses without taking them away.

 Art therapy can evaluate non-verbal warning signals to support other clinical impressions.

 Art therapy solicits action and information from clients and patients who cannot or will not talk.

 Art therapy provides a permanent record of client or patient information.

What you might observe in an art therapy session.

Art therapy generally utilizes drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and other forms of visual art expression.

 Clients or patients are given choices in both art media and themes in art expression.

 Interventions would be given to the client or patient to eliminate any frustration with the art materials but not with one’s choice of art topics or themes.

 Clients’ and patients’ artwork would be protected and stored in a safe place as artwork is viewed as the extension of the artist.

 Clients’ and patients’ would be helped to discover their meaning of their artwork.

 Clients’ and patients’ art-making process and intentions are used as springboards for discussion in art therapy sessions.

What groups of people benefit from art therapy?

Art therapy is used in treatment, assessment and research, and consultation to allied professionals. Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. They provide services, individually and as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices.

Is there any scientific evidence to suggest that it is beneficial?

Yes, research studies point to its successful application as a treatment in a variety of settings.

Can anyone become an art therapist?

Personal Qualifications: An art therapist must have sensitivity, empathy, emotional stability, patience, interpersonal skills, insight into human behavior, and an understanding of art media. An art therapist must also be an attentive listener and a keen observer. Flexibility and a sense of humor are important in adapting to client needs and work setting.

Educational Requirements: One must complete the required core curriculum as outlined in the American Art Therapy Association’s Education Standards to qualify as a professional art therapist. Entry into the profession of art therapy is at the master’s level.

There is a list of Educational Institutions providing a degree program in Art Therapy provided on the American Art Therapy Association’s website for contact information concerning current educational requirements and programs for each of the Institutions.

Registration and Board Certification Requirements: The ATR and ATR-BC are the recognized standards for the field of art therapy, and are conferred by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). In order to qualify as a registered art therapist (ATR), in addition to the educational requirements, an individual must complete a minimum of 1,000 direct client contact hours after graduation. One hour of supervision is required for every 10 hours of client contact.

See also

How many art therapists are there in the U.S.?

There are approximately 5,000 credentialed art therapists in the U.S. who qualify for an

ATR and/or ATR-BC