This year I’ve had many post-secondary students contact me wondering about how to learn more about AT.
I love that you are interested in Art Therapy as a career option and appreciate your interest in my website. I must tell you AT is a fascinating and rewarding area to study and work in.
Art Therapy is a relatively new field in Canada (less than 40 yrs old). While it is more established in England, where it is a part of the national health care system, and the USA. As such, Canada has yet to recognize AT under health insurance or benefit packages. Hopefully, this will change as the Ontario College of Psychotherapists works to regulate all disciplines who offer psychotherapy services in order to make them more accessible for the public.
Education: A background in Fine Art and psychology is a great combination. AT schools also accept students with other backgrounds and I would contact each one to find out what they would recommend. I would recommend an Art Therapy school that provides students with the experience of having gone through the therapeutic/psychoanalytic process themselves, as a group/ class. This is only a recommendation of some schools – but a really essential component to becoming a therapist.
Do I need a Masters? You do not need a Masters to be an Art Therapist. However, if you want government jobs, they usually require one. Concordia and St. Stephen’s are the two Masters programs in Canada. Each has a different focus.
Experience: Working with the population you are interested in is a good start. If you are interested in the elderly, work or volunteer in hospice, long-term care or a retirement home. Young children: day care, preschool, kinder garden etc.. My background is working in child and youth care, including young offenders and this is one of the populations I specialize in now. This does not mean that you could not see someone outside of your specialty but you would have to feel confident you could effectively provide treatment. It does help to specialize as there are too many areas to become really knowledgeable about. If you are interested in eating disorders – you could try volunteering at the hospital, etc.. Let me know if you are interested in working with children, youth or young offenders and I can direct you to who to contact if you are looking to volunteer or even work in the field to get some experience and a sense if this is the right population for you.
As for volunteering in AT – before I was a student I inquired about the same sort of thing. Unfortunately, for people wanting some first hand experience with AT, only a student of an AT program can volunteer in any way for reasons of confidentiality and professionalism. I would not be able to accommodate a student in my practice at this time as my space is limited to individual clients. However, I do have connections with many local child and youth organizations where groups could be facilitated at the need of the agency.
Another way to become more familiar with AT is to become a participant. Before I applied for AT school I participated in sessions so I could become familiar with the process and what it was like to be the client. Attending workshops and reading are also good ways to educate yourself.
There are many pros and cons to choosing Art Therapy as a career. It is my passion, it feeds my soul, I never tire of learning more about it, reading endlessly and talking about art therapy. I know this career path has made me a better person and has allowed me the honor and privilege to authentically help others in a very personal and meaningful way. You must commit to it and love it because there are many challenges. You will want to consider a second career, one that compliments AT. Some options are teaching, social work, school counselor, psychologist, child and youth worker. AT is a great career if you are looking for lifelong learning, personal growth, and being a witness to the healing potential of creativity and resilience in people.
I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if I can be of any further assistance. Send me an email if you would like to be contacted about upcoming workshops.