Updated: Jul 8, 2020
This post is dedicated to providing information and guidance on becoming an art therapist in Texas! I will tell you about my experience and the many obstacles I faced in working backward from masters level licensed therapist to art therapist. I know I can't be the only one who has found it challenging to find information about this profession especially when there are no art therapy programs in Texas!
My journey to becoming an art therapist was very challenging for many reasons. Let me tell you a little here about my story. I have always had a passion for the expressive arts. Throughout my life I have been involved in either creating art, engaging in arts and crafts activities, or dance. I also enjoyed helping others and found psychology class very interesting in high school. So I decided early on after graduating from high school to pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology, a master degress in counseling, and then became fully credentialed as a licensed professional counselor (LPC). About 2-3 years into my career decided that something was missing. To my surprise, I discovered art therapy and set off to figure out how to become an art therapist. I felt I had finally found how to merge my passion for helping others and the creative arts. I quickly learned, however, that it was going to be a little complicated to work backward.
So how did I do it?! Well, with lots and lots of patience and lots and lots of research. I wanted to share my experience here in order to help others who may find themselves also frustrated or overwhelmed with the process. I wish I had someone to lean on and consult with when I started my journey. I often found myself trying to connect to other art therapists in hopes of asking how they did it, only to find they had completed their art therapy education out of state and were not familiar with the process in Texas. I will begin first with the easiest route to becoming an art therapist.
A Recipe for Success:
If you know that art therapy is the way to go for you, then continue reading. I wish I would have known what I know now because this would have saved me lots of time. I guess things always work out for a reason. One thing that is very certain to me is that I have a great appreciation for art therapy because of all the hard work I put into getting where I am now!
It can be confusing to understand everything when you are just starting out. Also, keep in mind this is alot of information. It is not meant to discourage you, but to inform you of your decision to pursue a career in art therapy. It is a wonderful profession and worth the time and energy you put into the process.
The process begins with undergraduate studies. You will need credit hours of studio art which is outlined in detail on the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) and Art Therapy Credentialing (ATCB) website. These two sites will be your best friends and these are the best resources for you to reference along with your state licensing board and the Texas administrative code. Studio art credits can be attained at the undergrad level at a community college or 4-year university. The next step is the completion of a bachelor's degree in psychology or related field. There are also bachelor's degrees in Art Therapy that you can pursue by the way. There are specific courses that need to be completed during your bachelor degree (refer to the AATA and ATCB websites listed above for details).
After your bachelor's degree comes the master's degree in art therapy or expressive arts. Make sure to check that the program's courses match the art therapy credentialing requirements by visiting the AATA website which provides a list of available programs. It's also important to note that credentialing as an art therapist is only at the master's level regardless of whether you completed a bachelor's in art therapy.
While completing the master's degree you will also complete a practicum and internship which is known as field experience and is recorded by the number of hours you have face to face with clients conducting art therapy as well as hours you have completed under the supervision of a credentialed art therapist. There is a set of requirements for the number of hours you need to complete for this portion of the master's program.
After graduation from the master's program, you proceed to apply for an art therapy registered provisional (ATR-P) during this time you undergo a new post-graduate field experience of direct hours (i.e. face to face art therapy with clients) under supervision of a fully credentialed art therapist. There is also a set number of hours that are required and this is very important because it differs depending on whether you completed a masters program that was approved by AATA and/or Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Masters level art therapy/expressive arts programs qualify you not only for art therapy credentialing but also for licensing as a mental health professional in Texas such as an LPC or LMFT. This is why it is important to check with the licensing board to work towards both post-graduate experiences at the same time (i.e. art therapist and licensed counselor/therapist). Click here to learn about the LPC credentialing process.
Once you have completed post-graduate requirements as an ATR-P you then can apply for full credentialing as an Art Therapy Registered (ATR). The next step, if you choose, is to sit for board exams for an Art Therapy Registered Board Certification (ATR-BC) which then qualifies you with the Texas LPC board for a Licensed Professional Counselor Art Therapy specialty designation (LPC/AT).
Can a licensed counselor become an art therapist?
Absolutely! It's a little complicated but not impossible. Here is what I did in order to work backward from a licensed professional counselor (LPC) to an art therapist. First, let me give you a quick recap of my education and training. I completed a bachelor's degree in psychology and a Masters's in Community Counseling. I then completed a post-graduate field experience and attained my licensed professional counselor (LPC) in Texas. As mentioned before, about 2-3 years into practicing as an LPC, I returned to school to become an art therapist. I first started with prerequisite studio art in drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, and 2-D art because unfortunately, I had not taken art classes in college. I attended classes at my local community college to save on the cost.
I decided to look for hybrid postgraduate expressive arts/art therapy certification programs because of the cost as well and I did not want to redo my counseling masters degree, I wanted to focus on the art therapy coursework only. In addition, I was unable to move out of state for school due to my job. So hybrid or distance learning was the only option for me. I completed the expressive arts therapy post-graduate certification program with Prescott College in Arizona. I completed courses online and then flew out twice for an extended weekend to attend colloquium and two full weeks later in the program to complete the expressive arts summer intensive (EATSI) for the completion of the certification program. The EATSI was a wonderful experience! I was able to learn hands-on art therapy techniques from many great art therapists such as Cathy Malchiodi, Michael Franklin, Kat Kirby, etc. It took me three years to finish because I worked full-time. This post-graduate program can actually be completed in a year and a half if you can take a full course load each semester.
The cons of post-graduate certification programs are that they may not be AATA or CAAHEP approved. This means that you will need to complete more post-graduate hours while working on your ATR-P. For instance, my requirements are a total of 2,000 hours of direct client contact and 200 hours of supervision. In addition, this is a big one, make sure you can access your old syllabi from your psychology coursework during your bachelors. The college should have them on the file, you just have to contact the registrar to get copies. You will need these when applying for your ATR-P. And lastly but most importantly, be very picky when it comes to finding a great supervisor to oversee your post-grad field experience! I took this process very seriously and actually focused on interviewing supervisors instead of the other way around. It was very important to me that they would be the best fit for me as well as have many years of experience in the field.
I really hope that this information was helpful and gave you a good idea of the art therapy crdentialing process. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding post-graduate certification in art therapy/expressive arts therapy. I thought I'd mention I am not affiliated or endorsed by Prescott College, but I could not write this post without talking about how amazing my experience was in the program. They are definitely cost-effective and the program is very flexible for those working and going to school or living in a state where there are no programs.
1. What interested you in the field of art therapy?
2. Was there any new information in this post that was helpful or new to you?