Art Therapy Info


1600x1200-abstract-texture-g32002Art therapy is often confused with the use of art in therapy. The latter consists of art activities posed by non-art therapists during their sessions with individuals and/or groups. These therapists generally use the art activities to generate discussion but often lack the education and training to move beyond this level of exploration.


Art therapy is a master’s-level, clinical profession that combines knowledge of and techniques in both art making and mental health theory and practice. It utilizes the prescriptive use of art media, art methods, and verbal therapy approaches in conjunction with an understanding of symbolic communication and the image-oriented nature of the brain’s subcortical processes. It is thought that this action-based combination facilitates the development and/or strengthening of connections between the cortical and subcortical regions of the brain. The optimal result of this is increased cognitive, emotional, and behavioral integration.


Art therapy downplays the aesthetic value of a person’s art products and instead emphasizes the process of creating, which reveals the way in which an individual establishes order out of chaos and makes sense of her or his world. Art therapists have been educated and trained to guide this process for the purpose of exposing, challenging, and restructuring a person’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns. This results in the production of a visual record of the individual’s response to interventions. The individual can then refer back to this tangible record to help integrate therapeutic concepts and gains into her or his personal dynamics and choices.


Individuals who are emotionally blocked, prone to over-intellectualization, and/or unable to verbalize their inner experiences find that art therapy is a particularly effective method of treatment for their needs. People who have experienced preverbal trauma, are suffering from unresolved trauma or grief, and/or are having difficulty making a developmental transition are also well served by art therapy. The acceptance of art therapy as a mainstream mental health profession is evidenced by supportive legislation in several states, including Texas, where the title of “art therapist” is protected by the Licensed Professional Counselor Act; only individuals who meet the criteria for licensure as professional counselors with an art therapy specialty (LPC-AT) may hold themselves out to the public as art therapists.


For more information about the profession of art therapy, please check out the website of the American Art Therapy Association: To learn more about the credentialing of art therapists in Texas, please download the rules/regulations and statutes/laws of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors at, then visit the website of the Art Therapy Credentials Board:


I frequently hear from people who want to pursue training in art therapy. “Where in the Austin area can I go to school for this?” is a question that is often asked. The American Art Therapy Association maintains a list of approved graduate degree programs, related master’s and doctoral programs, and undergraduate degree programs. None of these programs are in Texas.


At various times in various cities, Texas art therapists have petitioned their local universities and colleges with a request to establish an art therapy program. To date, these efforts have yielded no results. Until the administrators of Texas universities and colleges become aware of the potential pool of would-be students (and would-be tuition money) that are lost to out-of-state art therapy programs, it is unlikely that this situation will change.


If you are someone who would like to pay tuition to an art therapy program in Texas but cannot due to the lack of such a program, please contact your local university or college and let the administrators know this. Eventually one of the institutions of higher education in Texas will hear this message often enough to realize that the establishment of an art therapy program would be a worthwhile venture. In the meantime, you might want to check out the program in Indiana mentioned on the American Art Therapy Association’s list of approved educational programs; that particular program features a distance learning option if relocation is not in the cards for you.

About the Image on This Page

Abstract Art  was posted to The Public Domain website by Mitch Featherston in 2011. Click here for more information.