Frequently Asked Questions about Art Therapy / Jobs

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is an established 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 (American Art Therapy Association [AATA]).

Is it new?

As noted by the AATA, 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 patients with mental illness. 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 the fields of psychiatry, psychology, counseling, education, and the arts. The American Art Therapy Association was founded in 1969. The Art Therapy Program at Wayne State University first offered classes in 1982.

What degrees are offered in Art Therapy at Wayne State?

Wayne State University offers two degrees in Art Therapy. The first is the M.Ed. (Master of Education, 48 credits) with a major in Art Education and Concentration in Art Therapy. This might sound a little confusing, but because of the program is situated in the College of Education, the degree granted is in Education, however the preparation is all art therapy. (Note: that graduates of this program do not receive teaching certificates.) The second option is a Master of Arts in Counseling (M.A.) with Concentration in Art Therapy, which allows students to combine professional preparation in art therapy and counseling (total 73 credits).

What are the differences and similarities between the M.Ed. and the M.A.?

Students in both programs attend and complete the most of the art therapy classes together. Students in the M.A. (Counseling) Program must also complete those classes required for licensure in Counseling (see program descriptions).

The advantage of the M.A. is the opportunity to eventually become licensed as a Counselor (LPC). Many students believe having a credential in counseling increases their employment potential. The disadvantage to the M.A. is the length of the program. Additionally, because Art Therapy students are not the only students desiring admission to the Counseling program, the number of applicants makes competition for admission greater. Some students who have not been accepted upon their first application to the M.A. program, were admitted to the M.Ed. program, and they began taking courses in the M.Ed. program in hopes that an opening would appear in the future. The M.Ed. has been an AATA-Approved Program since 1994, one of approximately 35 Approved graduate programs nationwide. The M.A. program earned Initial AATA Approval status in 2008. The Counseling Program, in addition to having AATA-Approval, is also accredited by CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs).

Which program is best for me?

Deciding between the two programs requires some thought about how one envisions practicing as an art therapist. Individuals who work in schools such as certified art teachers who plan to remain teaching, might be advised to complete the M.Ed. However, for individuals wanting to work in clinical situations or as independent practitioners, the M.A. might be the better program.

How do Wayne State's programs compare with other art therapy programs nationwide?

All AATA-Approved programs meet the Education Standards of the American Art Therapy Association. Art Therapy Programs at Wayne State University are situated in the College of Education and have a strong commitment to education as a way to improve the quality of life for many citizens, to making education accessible to a diverse group of students, and to community service in the Detroit metropolitan area.  Wayne State University is distinctive as an urban Carnegie Research-1 university.

How do students apply for admission?

For both the M.Ed. and the M.A. programs, students must apply for graduate admission. Supporting materials may be uploaded to the graduate admission application OR, they may be submitted directly to the departments: For the M.Ed., students should send a personal statement describing reasons they want to pursue art therapy, three letters of recommendation, 10-12 examples of art work (representing drawing, painting and 3-dimensional work), and an unofficial bachelor's transcript to the art therapy office, 163 Community Arts Building. Students may schedule a personal or phone interview if desired.  For the M.A., the same application materials are to be sent to the Academic Services, College of Education, room 489.  The counseling faculty must also interview Prospective MA students.

When can I start?

Students may begin art therapy classes in the fall semesters. Although students may be admitted in winter or spring/summer semesters, during those semesters students would be completing Education and/or Counseling classes. The art therapy classes begin in the fall.  Prerequisites: Both programs require 18 semester credits in studio art as described in the Education Standards of the AATA. The M.Ed. requires 15 semester prerequisite credits in psychology; the M.A. requires 12 credits in psychology in prerequisite coursework.

How well do I have to be able to draw?

You should be able to draw well enough so that if clients ask you for assistance with drawing something, you will not add to their frustration by not being able to help! The AATA 2007 Education Standards recommend "proficiency and disciplined commitment to art making…it is imperative that the applicant evidence a range of experience using a variety of art materials and processes." First hand knowledge of the creative process and art as a way of knowing are essential to art therapy practice.

What should my portfolio look like?

Please submit 10 or more pieces demonstrating your proficiency and competence in drawing, painting, and sculpture or ceramics or other 3-D work. These media are frequently used in art therapy. You may also highlight your area of expertise, if it's not one of these media areas. You may make an appointment to bring in your work; you may send a CD, Xeroxed prints, or indicate a website where your art may be viewed. Your artwork will be returned to you upon request.

I already have a master's degree. Do I still have to take all those classes?

A shorter master's degree Plan of Work is possible for students who have equivalent coursework to that required of the M.Ed. The plan of work will be developed in accordance with the AATA post-master's education standards in art therapy for people who already have one master's degree in a related area.

How are applicants selected for admission?

The faculty reviews applications for admission, and students are selected for admission if they have satisfied the admission criteria. We look at the application package as a whole and realize some students apply to the program with strengths in different areas. We value volunteer experience, students' commitment to their professional direction and to completion of the program, good interactive skills, ability to be reflective, and strengths in other personal dispositions.

Is there a way to combine an art therapy degree while also earning a teaching certificate?

Yes, this can be done, however the credit hours total over 100 in order to meet all courses required by both professional areas. Combining art therapy and art education means completing student teaching as well as art therapy internship. Students who are interested in both art education and art therapy have two advisors: Drs. Holly Feen (Art Therapy), and Anita Ricks-Bates (Art Education), who co-advise during the program.

With whom can I speak personally about these programs?

Dr. Holly Feen: Her direct line is 313-577-1823. Messages are also taken by calling 313-577-0902 (the same number to schedule appointments with Anita Ricks-Bates).

How much does the program cost? Are there assistantships? Financial aid?

Students should consult the university tuition and fee schedule for current tuition rates.  The College of Education has very few if any assistantships available. The Art Education/Art Therapy program offers one 10-month $12,000 assistantship named for alumnus Clarice Percox, but this does not cover tuition. This award as well as other scholarships is offered by the College of Education; the Graduate School, Women of Wayne, and The American Art Therapy Association offer additional scholarships.  Students should pay attention to submission deadlines of the various scholarships.

May I work along with the program?

Yes; preferably the day shift! Most of our classes start at 4:00, 5:00 or 5:30 p.m., or are scheduled on Saturdays.

How long will it take to complete the program?

Usually two-three years for the M.Ed.; four years for the M.A. A recommended sequence for enrolling in classes is printed in the student handbooks.

I have not completed all my prerequisites; may I still start the program?

Students will have twelve months from the time of admission to complete outstanding deficiencies in the prerequisite area (see Admissions Requirements), however sometimes the course you want is not offered as planned, and sometimes students find their graduate programs are demanding enough without having to be enrolled in additional classes simultaneously. Thus, it is best to have completed prerequisite classes before beginning the master's program.

What is a Plan of Work?

A Plan of Work (POW) is the list of classes students contract to complete for their degrees. The POWs for the M.Ed.  and the M.A. is printed in the Art Therapy Student Handbooks. The student's advisor must approve plans of Work. The signed POWs are then delivered to the Academic Services office for approval. Copies of the approved POWs are then returned to the advisor and to the student, signed in red.  

What if I want to change my POW?

Completing a "Change in the Plan of Work" form available from Room 489 College of Education, or from the student's advisor can do this.

Where can I get academic advising (not art therapy or counseling subject area advising?)?

The office of Academic Services in the College of Education (489 COE) is the place where your records are filed, where you can change majors, apply for Independent study courses, time extensions, or receive advising for other programmatic or academic needs 313-577-1823.

How do I apply for graduation?

One of the last steps you need to take before receiving your degree is to apply for graduation.  You must apply for graduation in Pipeline no later than the end of the fifth week of classes in the semester you plan on graduating.  To submit an application, click on the "Student" tab, and select "Apply for Degree or Certificate" from the Student Records menu.  For additional information, please visit Degrees and Graduation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jobs

Where do art therapists work, and what are my chances for finding a job?

Hospitals, palliative care centers, schools, assisted living centers, and other community service agencies employ Art therapists. Some school districts employ art therapists (even if they are not also certified teachers), but most districts employing art therapists require a teaching certificate. Locally, there are full-time art therapy positions in two school districts serving children with Autism. There have been openings in cancer centers and in hospices. Some of our graduates have created their own employment in studio settings. The Art Experience is one example. A number of students have been hired by their internship sites. Veterans hospitals employ creative art therapists nationwide; the job availability is different by state, and the Detroit VA does employ an art therapist. In recent years a local major hospital began fundraising for an art therapy program in conjunction with an art institute, demonstrating new approaches to creating art therapy positions, and an art therapist was hired.

Does WSU have a job placement service?

The Art Therapy Program is committed to helping students find jobs. A number of assignments in the culminating classes are intended to help prepare students for a successful job search: assignments include electronic or traditional portfolios, creating program proposals, and offering in-service presentations to area agencies who do not have art therapy, or advocacy assignments providing public information on the benefits of art therapy for given populations. Students who notify the department have their positions listed in the departmental newsletter (archives available on the art therapy home page).

Some of our graduates do not enter the job market if they are art teachers; rather they use their art therapy expertise in their art education careers.

What can a graduate expect to earn as an art therapist?

There is a range reported by graduates who have been hired as art therapists, and this range includes criteria such as whether the position is full or part-time or contractual. Often the hourly wage for contractual positions is higher than full or part time positions that offer health or other benefits. Some employers such as the VA, have established salary ranks. WSU recommends that students inform employers that art therapists should be paid commensurate with other masters level clinical positions.

Is there a license in art therapy?

The credential to practice art therapy is the A.T.R. (Art Therapist Registered by the American Art Therapy Association.) The ATR is awarded to students graduating from AATA Approved programs who also complete 1000 paid supervised hours in direct client contact in the practice of art therapy. Until a graduate completes 1000 hours, he or she is considered ATR-eligible. A few states to have art therapy licensure, but Michigan does not. The ATR credential is recognized as the professional credential in art therapy, although it is not a license. Students graduating from the MA in counseling program ultimately will be eligible to also earn a counseling license (LPC) following completion of the program.

What is the "BC"?

BC means "Board-Certified." Having earned an A.T.R., students may take an exam for Board Certification. The credential BC represents a certain level of experience or expertise. The ATR and the BC are credentials awarded by the Art Therapy Credentials Board.

What is the difference Between the AATA and the ATCB?

The American Art Therapy Association, Inc. (AATA) promotes and regulates the educational, professional, and ethical standards for art therapists and is the official member organization for professionals and students in the field of art therapy. The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB), a separate organization, grants registration (ATR) after reviewing documentation of completion of graduate education and postgraduate supervised experience. The Registered Art Therapist (ATR) who successfully passes the written examination administered by the ATCB is qualified as Board Certified (ATR-BC), a credential requiring maintenance through continuing education, visit the American Art Therapy Association.