Art Therapy FAQs and Newsletters

Program Information

  • What is art therapy?

    Art therapy is 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 (American Art Therapy Association [AATA]).

  • Is it new?

    As noted by the AATA (, visual expression has been used for healing throughout history, but art therapy did not emerge as a distinct profession until the 1940s. In the early 20th century, psychiatrists became interested in the artwork created by patients with mental illness. Around the same time, educators were discovering that children's art expressions reflected developmental, emotional, and cognitive growth. By mid-century, hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers increasingly began to include art therapy programs along with traditional 'talk therapies,' underscoring the recognition that the creative process of art making enhanced recovery, health, and wellness. As a result, the profession of art therapy grew into an effective and important method of communication, assessment, and treatment with children and adults in a variety of settings. Currently, the field of art therapy has gained attention in health-care facilities throughout the United States and within the fields of psychiatry, psychology, counseling, education, and the arts. The American Art Therapy Association was founded in 1969. The Art Therapy Program at Wayne State University first offered classes in 1982.

  • What degrees are offered in Art therapy at Wayne State University?

    Wayne State University offers two degrees in Art Therapy. The first is the M.Ed. (Master of Education, 48 credits) with a major in Art Education and Concentration in Art Therapy. This might sound a little confusing, but because of the program is situated in the College of Education, the degree granted is in Education, however the preparation is all art therapy. (Note that graduates of this program do not receive teaching certificates). The second option is a Master of Arts in Counseling (M.A.) with Concentration in Art Therapy, which allows students to combine professional preparation in art therapy and counseling (total 60 credits).

  • What are the differences and similarities between the M.Ed. and the M.A.?

    Students in both programs attend and complete most of the art therapy classes together. Students in the M.A. (Counseling) Program must also complete those classes required for licensure in Counseling (see program descriptions).

    The advantage of the M.A. is the opportunity to eventually become licensed as a Counselor (LPC). Many students believe having a credential in counseling increases their employment potential. The M.A. is 66 credits vs. 48 for the M.Ed. Because Art Therapy students are not the only students desiring admission to the Counseling program, the number of applicants makes competition for admission greater. The M.Ed. has been an AATA-Approved Program since 1994, one of approximately thirty-seven Approved or accredited graduate programs nationwide. The M.A. program earned Initial AATA Approval status in 2008. The Counseling Program, in addition to having AATA-Approval, is also accredited by CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs).

  • Which program is best for me?

    Deciding between the two programs requires some thought about how one envisions practicing as an art therapist. Individuals who work in schools such as certified art teachers who plan to remain teaching, might be advised to complete the M.Ed. Individuals already holding mental health licenses (e.g. LMSW) might also find the ME.d. provides what they need in art therapy content.

    However, all other individuals, especially those who want also to pursue a counseling career, are recommended to choose the M.A.

  • How do Wayne State University's programs compare with other art therapy programs nationwide?

    All "AATA-Approved" or "CAAHEP" accredited programs meet the Education Standards of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) adopted by the American Art Therapy Association's (AATA) Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education Programs (ACATE).

    Wayne State's programs were Approved through 2021, and are presently undergoing a self study for CAAHEP accreditation.

    Art Therapy Programs at Wayne State University are situated in the Theoretical and Behavioral Foundations Division of the College of Education. The College of Education has a strong commitment to: a) education as a way to improve the quality of life for many citizens, b) making education accessible to a diverse group of students, and c) to community service in the Detroit metropolitan area. Wayne State University's Art Therapy Program is distinguished by its urban setting and Carnegie Research-1 classification.

  • How do students apply for admissions?

    Both the M.Ed. and the M.A. programs admit students in the fall semesters, for which applications are due March 1. Students must apply for graduate admission ( Supporting materials may be uploaded to the graduate admission application. These materials include a personal statement describing reasons students want to pursue art therapy or art therapy and counseling, two letters of recommendation, a portfolio of art work and an official transcript. Once all materials have been received by the Grad School, they are forwarded to the College, and an interview will be scheduled. Both programs have been scheduling group interviews. Additional information about the prerequisites  are available.

  • When can I start?

    Students begin art therapy classes in the fall semesters, when the introductory classes are offered. The M.A. program admits students in Cohort groups. The M.Ed. students have some greater flexibility to complete classes, (which are sequentially arranged) at a slower pace.

  • How well do I have to be able to draw?

    Our program values first-hand knowledge of the creative process and art as a way of knowing as essential to art therapy practice.

    Guided by the Education Standards, our program requires at least 18 semester credits in studio art, in a variety of two-and three-dimensional media (which may include digital art) and processes.

  • What should my portfolio look like?

    A portfolio of work representing your proficiency in the 2 and 3-D media is also required (minimum ten prints or slides; upload into your application) demonstrating both competency with these media, as well as your disciplined commitment to artmaking. Students should label their works with title, media and size.

  • How are applicants selected for admission?

    The faculty members review applications for admission and interview students. A rating sheet is used to score  aspects of the admissions materials: grade point, application materials, interview, etc.  Faculty members look at the application package as a whole, and realize some students apply to the program with strengths in different areas. Our program values volunteer experience, students' commitment to their professional direction, completion of the program, good interactive skills, ability to be reflective, and strengths in other personal dispositions.

  • Is there a way to combine an art therapy degree while also earning a teaching certificate?

    Yes, this can be done, however students should note that combining art therapy and art education means completing student teaching as well as art therapy internship.

    Students who are interested in both art education and art therapy have two advisors: Dr. Holly Feen (Art Therapy), and Dr. Anita Bates (Art Education), who co-advise during the program. They can be reached at:

  • How much does the program cost? Are there assistantships? Financial aid?
  • May I work along with the program?

    Yes; preferably the day shift! Most of our classes start at 4:00, 5:00 or 5:30 p.m., or are scheduled on Saturdays.

  • How long will it take to complete the program?

    The program typically is completed in  two-three years for the M.Ed.; Three years (9 semesters)  for the M.A.

  • I have not completed all of my prerequisites; may I still start the program?

    At least 12 credit hours must be completed prior to beginning the art therapy coursework. The remaining six hours may be completed after beginning the first art therapy course that will count toward this credential, but must be completed within a year of beginning graduate coursework in art therapy.

  • What is a Plan of Work?

    The Plan of Work (POW) is the list of classes students contract to complete for their degrees. The POWs for the M.Ed. and the M.A. is printed in the Art Therapy Student Handbooks, and they are on the Art Therapy Program Resources Canvas shell. The advisors must approve and sign Plans of Work. The signed POWs are subsequently delivered to the Academic Services office for approval. Copies of the College of Education Academic Services approved POWs are then returned to the advisor and to the student, signed in red.

  • Where can I get academic advising (not art therapy or counseling subject area advising)?

    The office of Academic Services in the College of Education (489 College of Education Building (4th Floor)) is the place where student records are filed, where students can apply for time extensions, submit Plans of Work, inquire about registration problems, and other needs 313-577-1601.

  • How do I apply for graduation?

    Students apply for graduation electronically ( during the first five weeks of the semester the student plans to graduate (

Career Information

  • Where do art therapists work, and what are my chances for finding a job?

    Hospitals, palliative care centers, schools, assisted living centers, and other community service agencies employ Art therapists. Some school districts employ art therapists (even if they are not also certified teachers), but most districts employing art therapists require a teaching certificate. There have been openings in cancer centers and in hospices. Some of our graduates have created their own employment in studio settings. The Art Experience ( is one example. A number of students have been hired by their internship sites. Veterans hospitals employ creative art therapists nationwide; the job availability is different by state, and the Detroit VA does employ an art therapist.

  • Does WSU have a job placement service?

    The Art Therapy Program is committed to helping students find jobs. A number of assignments in the culminating classes are intended to help prepare students for a successful job search: assignments include electronic or traditional portfolios, creating program proposals, and offering in-service presentations to area agencies who do not have art therapy, or advocacy assignments providing public information on the benefits of art therapy for given populations. Some of our graduates do not enter the job market if they are art teachers; rather they use their art therapy expertise in their art education careers.

  • What can a graduate expect to earn as an art therapist?

    There is a range reported by graduates who have been hired as art therapists, and this range includes criteria such as whether the position is full or part-time or contractual. Often the hourly wage for contractual positions is higher than full or part time positions that offer health or other benefits. Some employers such as the VA, have established salary ranks. WSU recommends that students inform employers that art therapists should be paid commensurate with other master's level clinical positions.

Licensure and Certification Information

  • Is there a license in art therapy?

    The credential to practice art therapy is the A.T.R. (Art Therapist Registered by the American Art Therapy Association.) The ATR is awarded to students graduating from AATA Approved  or CAAHEP accredited programs who also complete 1000 paid supervised hours in direct client contact in the practice of art therapy. Until a graduate completes 1000 hours, he or she is considered ATR-eligible. A few states to have art therapy licensure, but Michigan does not. The ATR credential is recognized as the professional credential in art therapy, although it is not a license. Students graduating from the M.A. in counseling program ultimately will be eligible to also earn a counseling license (LPC) following completion of the program.

  • What is the "BC"?

    BC means "Board-Certified." Having earned an A.T.R., students may take an exam for Board Certification. The credential BC represents a certain level of experience or expertise. The ATR and the BC are credentials awarded by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (

  • What is the difference between the AATA and the ATCB?

    The American Art Therapy Association, Inc. (AATA) promotes and regulates the educational, professional, and ethical standards for art therapists and is the official member organization for professionals and students in the field of art therapy. The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB), a separate organization, grants registration (ATR) after reviewing documentation of completion of graduate education and postgraduate supervised experience. The Registered Art Therapist (ATR) who successfully passes the written examination administered by the ATCB is qualified as Board Certified (ATR-BC), a credential requiring maintenance through continuing education (

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