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.
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 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4|
1 WES Course
ART: 2D Course
ART: 3D Course
2 WES Courses
ART: Electives, including 1 art history
Apply for graduate school
STAT 1600 (WES Course)
ART: 2D Course
ART: 3D Course
1 WES Course
Request recommendation letters
|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: WMU ESSENTIAL STUDIES & Electives
Level 1: Foundations
- ENGL 1050: Foundations in Writing
Oral and Digital Communication
- COM 1000: Communication and Community Development
- COM 1040: Public Speaking
- MATH 1140: Essential Quantitative Literacy
- STAT 1600: Discovery with Data
Inquiry and Engagement
- ES 2800: Human Flourishing and Happiness
- FCS 1030: Lifespan Development
- GRN 1000: Introduction to Aging Studies
- HSV 2250: Growth, Development and Aging
- SOC 2000: Principles of Sociology
- SWRK 1000: Introduction to Social Service
Level 2: Exploration and Discovery
- ADA 2250: Drug Use – Personal and Social Impact
- COM 1700: Interpersonal Communication
- HOL 1000: Choices in Living
- FCS 2660: Personal Nutrition
World Language and Culture
- ART 2220: Africa, Oceania, Americas
- ART 2230: Intro to Asian Art History
Scientific Literacy with a Lab
- GPS 1500: Introduction to Graphic Printing Science
Science and Technology
- PSY 1000: General Psychology
Societies and Cultures
- ART 2200: Caves to Cathedrals
- ADA 3410: Diversity and Substance Abuse
- FCS 2170: Diverse Children, Families, and Communities
- GWS 2010: LGBT Studies
- SPPA 2000: Communication Disorders and Science
Artistic Theory and Practice
- ART 2210: Modern to Postmodern
- ED 2300: Nature of Creativity
Level 3: Connections
- ART 4210: Medieval Foreign Encounters
- FCS 3150: Global Ecology of the Family
- GWS 3200: Women, Global, and Social Change
- REL 3180: Death, Dying, and Beyond
- REL 3190: Religion and Health
Local and National Perspectives
- ANTH 3470: Ethnicity and Multiculturalism
- BLS 3050: Intro to Adults with Disabilities
- ENGL 3060: Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture
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
Students should consult the WMU catalog for course descriptions and requirements.
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.
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