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Q&A with an Art Therapist

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Board-Certified Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Katie Prodanovich, answers 13 questions about what Art Therapy is, how it is beneficial, and what it means to be an Art Therapist.

Below are also three art video tutorials by Katie of activities you can do at home.

Two women, art therapist Katie on the left and resident artist Julianna on the right working on floral watercolor collage
Art Therapist Katie, on the left, working with Resident Artist Julianna, on the right, on a watercolor collage.


What is Art Therapy?

The American Art Therapy Association defines Art Therapy as:

“Art Therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.

Art Therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change. “

How do you become an Art Therapist?

Art therapy requires a master’s degree in Art therapy and mental health counseling. Master programs are duel and focus on the study of both Art therapy and mental health counseling (Marriage and Family Therapy or Clinical Counselor). Art therapists are also trained in a diversity of art techniques and material usage.

Once you have completed your master’s degree you then have to complete a professional internship under the supervision of a certified art therapist. When you complete your post-degree internship experience you then apply to the board to be accepted as a Registered Art Therapist (ATR). Art therapist that chose to be board certified pass a national examination that demonstrates knowledge and comprehension of clinical skills and theories.

The road to becoming an Art Therapist is long, but well worth the rewarding career.

Where can an Art Therapist work?

Art therapist can work in all types of setting; private practice, clinics, hospitals, community centers, school, etc.

Why did you decide to become an Art Therapist?

I have always loved and connected through art ever since I was little. Growing up I took art lessons and would spend hours drawing or doing something crafty. During my undergrad education, in which I was studying fine art and painting, I found my own creative process was deeply personal and therapeutic. My personal art often reflects my processing of challenges and successes within my own life experiences. I am often surprised by what comes out of my artwork and the messages of strength, hardship, grief, and healing that it presents. When I find I am struggling with something in my life I turn to my art making to help me process and progress through it. Since I found my own work and process to be therapeutic I became passionate about using art to help others. From the moment I attended my first class in grad school I felt like I found what I was meant to do in my life.

Do you need to be good at art to be an Art Therapist?

Art therapists are trained in art making so that we know how to do creative intervention with clients and so that we can help clients with their materials. We must be well versed in a variety of art techniques and mediums. To many, art is not good or bad. Art therapy is about the process of making art and what it has to tell us, not about composition or other art techniques. Everyone can do art.

What is your favorite thing about being an Art Therapist?

Getting to help others’ process and work through challenges is very rewarding. I enjoy watching my clients grow through the process of art making. Holding the space and allowing individuals to feel safe to conquer their deepest challenges is an honor.

What are the benefits of Art Therapy over conventional therapy?

Unlike conventional therapy, Art Therapy uses art interventions and the creation of art as a tool to aid in the process of therapy. Art provides a unique opportunity for individuals to explore the inner self while working on identified goals. The process of making art is non-verbal and universal which makes it accessible to many. However, art making can pose a challenge in therapy for society has created the idea that you have to “be an artist” to make art. This can be a hurdle when working with clients in sessions, but conquering that hurdle can prove to be rewarding.