The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) defines art therapy as 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.
Art therapists are master's level professionals who hold a degree in art therapy or a related field. Educational requirements include: theories of art therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy; ethics and standards of practice; assessment and evaluation; individual, group, and family techniques; human and creative development; multicultural issues; research methods; and practicum experiences in clinical, community, and/or other settings.
Art therapists are skilled in the application of a variety of art modalities (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other media) for assessment and treatment.
The designation "ATR" (Art Therapist Registered) is granted by the ATCB to art therapists who have successfully completed the required graduate educational training and post graduate professional experience, which includes supervision by an ATR credentialed art therapist.
The designation "BC" (Board Certified) is granted by the ATCB to ATR art therapists who have successfully passed the independently administered national certification examination. Re-certification is provided every five years by documentation of continuing education, publication, presentation, exhibition, and other activities which demonstrate continuing professional competence.
It is unethical for someone to practice art therapy or refer to themselves as an art therapist without obtaining a Master's Degree in Art Therapy.