Pre-Art Therapy Advising Track

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is the therapeutic practice of using art in therapy and art as therapy. The practice of art therapy has established the use of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well being of individuals of all ages. Art therapy allows for the creative process of art to explore an individual’s feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addiction, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem. Art therapy is widely practiced in hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice and other clinical and community settings.

Art therapy is an effective treatment for people who have survived trauma resulting from combat, abuse, and natural disaster; persons with adverse physical health conditions such as cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other health disability; and persons with autism, dementia, depression, and other disorders. It can assist people to resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight.

 American Art Therapy Association, AATA

How do I become an art therapist?

To become an art therapist, you must have knowledge and practice in visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture and other art forms) as well as an understanding of human development, psychological, and counseling theories and techniques. The American Art Therapy Association—AATA—recommends courses in drawing, painting, ceramics and sculpture.

A master’s degree is required for entry-level practice as a registered art therapist—ATR. 

How can the WMU Frostic School of Art help me achieve my goal of becoming an art therapist?

As there is no specific undergraduate degree required to meet the entrance requirements for art therapy graduate programs, students interested in art therapy can choose any major. However, art therapy graduate programs do have prerequisites: 18 art studio credit hours and 12 credit hours in psychology.

To complete these requirements, we recommend pursuing a major in art plus the 12-credits in psychology. A student can also choose to double major or adding an additional minor in areas such as holistic health, psychology or family life education. There are several major and minor pairings to choose to satisfactorily prepare students for graduate-level education in art therapy. By working with the art academic advisor, students can chose the best pathway for their interests and career goals.

Sample 4-Year for Pre-Art Therapy Track

Bachelor of Art in art, minor in psychology

 Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Fall Semester

ART 1040

ART 1070

ART 2200

ENGL 1050

1 Gen Ed Course

ART: 2D Course

ART: 3D Course

PSY 1400

2 Gen Ed Courses

ART: Electives

PSY 2500

Gen Ed Courses

ART: Electives, including 1 art history


Gen Ed Courses

Apply for graduate school

Spring Semester

ART 1050

ART 1080

ART 2210

PSY 1000

STAT 1600 (Gen Ed)

ART: 2D Course

ART: 3D Course


PSY 1600

1 Gen Ed Course

ART: Electives

ART 3250

Gen Ed Courses

Request recommendation letters

ART: Electives

Gen Ed Courses

Summer Volunteer/paid experience Begin researching graduate programs, volunteer/paid experience Build portfolio, update resume and volunteer/paid experience Prepare for graduate school

Suggested Courses: General Education & Electives

Distribution Area I (satisfied with art history required courses)

  • ART 2200: Caves to Cathedrals
  • ART 2210: Modern and Postmodern

Distribution Area II

  • PHIL 2010: Intro to Ethics
  • REL 3180: Death, Dying, and Beyond
  • REL 3240: Psychological Elements in Religion

Distribution Area III

  • ANTH 3470: Ethnicity/Multiculturalism
  • BLS 3050: Intro to Adults with Disabilities
  • GRN 1000: Intro to Gerontology
  • GWS 2010: LGBT Studies
  • GWS 3500: Psychological Perspectives on Gender
  • HIST 3230: History of Healthcare in the US
  • HSV 3550: Perspectives in Women’s Health

Distribution Area IV

  • FCS 3150: Global Ecology of the Family

Distribution Area V

  • HIST 3250: History of Healthcare in the World
  • HSV 2250: Growth/Development/Aging
  • PSY 1000: General Psychology (required of psychology minor)
  • SOC 2000: Principles of Sociology

Distribution Area VI

  • PHIL 3340: Biomedical Ethics
  • SPPA 2000: Communication Disorders & Sciences

Distribution Area VIII

  • ADA 2250: Drug Use-Personal/Social Impact
  • HOL 1000: Choices in Living
  • REL 3190: Religion and Health

Elective courses

  • FCS 2100: Human Sexuality

  • FCS 2140: Child Development

  • FCS 2150: Adolescent Development

  • FCS 3170: Crisis and Resiliency in Families

  • FCS 3180: Intimate Relationships Friends, Family and Marriage

  • HOL 5500: Introduction to Holism and Expressive Arts

  • HOL 5510: Holistic Approaches to Healing Through Visual Art

Students should consult the WMU catalog for course descriptions and requirements.

WMU Catalog 

What resources are available to learn more about art therapy?

The American Art Therapy Association website is a critical source of information for students considering pursuing art therapy. The AATA website has additional details about art therapy as a career, certified graduate schools with art therapy programs and list of current art therapists in your area. You can also find your local chapter and for information on joining.

Ready to pursue art therapy? Have questions about this advising track?

The Frostic School of Art advising office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. If you would like to meet with the art advisor please set up an appointment. 

Schedule an appointment

Contact information

Nick Gauthier
Western Michigan University
Frostic School of Art Advising
1903 W Michigan Ave
2104 Richmond Center for Visual Arts
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5213 USA

phone (269) 387-2440
fax (269) 387-2477