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Q&A with an Art Therapist

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

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.

Are all creative therapists (art, music, drama, etc.) the same?

Each creative therapist (art, music, drama, etc) has their own specific training. Due to this reason they are not the same. Some therapists might be trained in multiple creative therapies, but those who are not only practice in their specialty.

Can non-art therapists incorporate art into their therapeutic practices?

Art therapy is a very extensive training and therefore should only be utilized by a qualified art therapist. However, art making is not art therapy. Non-art therapist can use art making in sessions, but should be careful about the intention and how the art is utilized. Attempting to providing interventions or analyze art when you are not trained can be damaging to the client.

What does a stereotypical art therapy session look like?

Art therapy sessions typically will start with a discuss or check-in with the client to determine what they would like to focus on during session. A creative intervention or process will then be suggested to assist the client in working through the intention for that session. The client then works on the art process. Depending on the situation an art therapist will either hold the space (be present with the client during the art making) or make art a long side the client. This is determined by the therapeutic benefits of it. During the art making process and after the art therapist will provide directives, prompts, and insight in aiding the client in discovering what their art is offering or “saying”. Artwork can be worked on and completed within one session or multiple.

What are some examples of art therapy activities and interventions?

There are a lot of art therapy interventions that are utilized as well as art processes. All kinds of art making can be used within a therapeutic setting including painting, drawing, ceramics, weaving, collage, print making, mixed media, etc. Art therapist often choose an intervention or art process based off the client’s needs, interest, goals, and experiences. We are very careful in the choice of material we use for some materials can be triggering to clients or pose a particular risk.

What are a few tips on how to manage stress?

Managing stress can be very challenging, especially when dealing with multiple stressors (work, family, a pandemic). I find taking time to practice self-care is beneficial. Find something that brings you joy and carve out time (even if its ten minutes) every day or weekly to engage in that activity. For me, creating art is a stress reliever. I tried to do something creative once a week. When I am feeling overwhelmed by stress I take half a day to get lost in my creative process. Another tip to managing stress is being mindful of your body and how you are encompassing stress (does you shoulders hurt, are your muscle tight, how is your breathing?). By listening to our bodies and tending to those areas on where we hold it can help in relieving stress.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become an Art Therapist?

I would advise that they explore all forms of art making and find what they are passionate about within the arts. The process of becoming an art therapist can be long, but is worth it in the end. Holding on to the passion that gets you started in the process of becoming an art therapist will keep you motivated when you want to give up.


Resident artist Byron in art smock holding green-painted pumpkin with Art Therapist Katie on right at fall art festival.
Art Therapist Katie, on right, with Resident Artist Byron, on left, holding painted pumpkin.

If you want to learn more about Art Therapy or you are an individual in the helping profession (such as counselors, therapist, and social workers) and are looking for CEUs, Katie is offering a 3 credit online CEU workshop, Creative Interventions within Therapy, October 22nd 2pm – 5pm PDT.


Katie Prodanovich, ATR-BC, LPCC 7087, is a board certified art therapist and a licensed professional clinical counselor with over six years of experience working with adults with dual diagnosis with developmental disabilities and a variety mental health diagnoses. She is currently the Program Manager and Inclusion Specialist at Able ARTS Work, a non-profit therapeutic day program that utilizes art and music therapy with adults who have developmental disabilities. Katie has presented her research at the American Art Therapy Annual Conference on utilizing art with adults who have developmental disabilities as well as conducted several professional development trainings.

Able ARTS Work is a CAMFT-approved Continuing Education Provider

Provider Number: 1000110


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