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What is art therapy

Art therapy is a licensed 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, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. Art therapy practice requires knowledge of visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms) and the creative process, as well as of human development, psychological, and counseling theories and techniques. Today art therapy is widely practiced in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings. During individual and/or group sessions art therapists elicit their clients’ inherent capacity for art making to enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Research supports the use of art therapy within a professional relationship for the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic self- expression and reflection for individuals who experience illness, trauma, and mental health problems and those seeking personal growth.


Art therapy is practiced in mental health, rehabilitation, medical, educational, forensic, wellness, private practice and community settings with diverse client populations in individual, couples, family, and group therapy formats. Art therapy is an effective treatment for people experiencing developmental, medical, educational, and social or psychological impairment. Individuals who benefit from art therapy include those 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. Art therapy helps people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight. Art therapy also provides an opportunity to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of art making.

How do I become an Art Therapist

In New Jersey, a license is required to practice art therapy. A master’s degree is required for entry-level practice in art therapy from institutions of higher education recognized by regional accreditation bodies approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Educational requirements include theories of art therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy; ethics and standards of practice; assessment and evaluation; individual, group, and family art therapy techniques; human and creative development; multicultural issues; research methods; and internship experiences in clinical, community, and/or other settings. High-quality art therapy programs prepare their students for entry-level skills and post-graduate work toward licensure and board certification as an art therapist.  Quality programs also undergo a rigorous annual review process, which ensures their resources, curriculum, faculty, and policies are prepared to meet your learning needs.

A period of transition in regard to these review processes is currently underway for Art Therapy programs.  Educational standards which had been established by the American Art Therapy Association are transitioning to being managed by the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education, which is overseen by the Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). For more information, please go to the American Art Therapy Association's website.

How are Credentials Approved and Maintained

In New Jersey, Art Therapy is a licensed mental health profession. In 2015, P.L. 2015, c.199 (N.J.S.A. 45:8B-51 et seq.), the Art Therapist Licensing Act (Act) was passed, requiring individuals engaging in the practice of art therapy to hold a license as an Associate Art Therapist (LAAT) or a Professional Art Therapist (LPAT). Under the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs under the Office of the Attorney General, the State Board of Creative Arts and Activities Therapies regulates the practice of art therapy in the state. For more information, please visit the licensing board's page.  


Art Therapists can also receive national credentials in art therapy. The Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. (ATCB), the credentialing body for the profession of art therapy, confers and administers professional credentials to art therapy practitioners upon achieving a master’s degree in art therapy. ATCB’s mission is “to protect the public by promoting the competent and ethical practice of art therapy through the credentialing of art therapy professionals.” Those who hold ATCB credentials are required to adhere to the ATCB Code of Professional Practice.

**NJATA is not affiliated with either the State Board of Creative Arts and Activities Therapies or the Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. 


Licensed and credentialed art therapists who meet the high level of education and experience required for the profession can be located through our directory of members in private practiceFind-a-Therapist or the American Art Therapy Association’s Art Therapist Locator. License of a practitioner’s can be verified through the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.


The American Art Therapy Association supports federal and state policies, legislation, regulations, judicial actions, and initiatives that encourage, promote, and support efforts to gain a professional art therapy license and licensure of art therapists. © American Art Therapy Association 2013


Caldwell University offers graduate studies in the Art Therapy field. Click here for more information.

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