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Choosing An Art Therapist

Choosing an Art Therapist

Here are some simple guidelines to follow when making the decision to choose an Art Therapist:

  1. Know what your desired outcome is: There are many ways that art is used therapeutically. Which type of outcome will dictate what service you should work with:

  2. Art Therapy: Clients seeking to address difficult life events, mental health issues or engage in deep self reflection will work with an Art Therapist using art media to have greater insight, growth and learning. Art Therapists will use the natural properties of the art materials to provide experiences that allow for a greater understanding of core beliefs, areas of “stuckness” and growth.

  3. Art Experiences: Art activities are often provided by clinicians, lay people and art teachers to help engage a population in expressing thoughts and feelings. These experiences focus on creating art as a fun interaction.

  4. Art Classes: An art teacher provides specific skills to students which will improve their understanding of a media or technique. Art classes are often taken by individual who would like to learn how to increase their aptitude in drawing, painting, sculpting or photography.

  5. Who can provide Art Therapy? A Registered Art Therapist is a mental health professional who has received a specialized Master’s degree in Expressive Arts Therapies, completed an internship and been certified by the Art Therapy Credentialing Board with the designation of ATR, ATR-BC or Provisional ATR. Only those professionals with ATR certification can provide Art Therapy.

  6. My therapist does art with me: Other mental health professionals can incorporate art into their therapy session, however they do not have the rigorous training to guide, interpret and create change through art making.

  7. Do Art Therapists adhere to ethical principles? Art Therapists are bound to follow ethical guidelines designed to ensure that clients receive supportive care that does no harm. These principles include having no other outside relationship between the client and therapist, maintaining healthy boundaries and ensuring that confidentiality is maintained. Records, including art work, are stored in a secure, locked area, and there are guidelines to verbal and social media interactions. Art Therapists may incorporate multiple ethical guidelines, including their state licensure board and field of specialty. Always request copies of a therapist’s current licensure and certification.

  1. Is the therapist licensed? Licensure ensures that the counselor has completed a graduate or post-graduate program in counseling, psychology, social work, or marriage & family therapy. Additionally, the therapist has completed approximately 2,000 hours of supervision after completion of their degree prog

ram and passed an extensive licensure test. Many Art Therapists are dually certified as an ATR and licensed in their state. Some states allow for a specialized license for Art Therapy.

  1. Why art? Art provides us with a visual voice – allowing us to share difficult and painful thoughts, feelings, memories and experiences in a safe, contained setting. By getting thoughts and feelings out onto the paper, clay, etc., participants can look at the issue from a distance, make a change, or even destroy their art. These visual expressions of inward pain, loss and change lead to outward transformation and growth.

  2. Choosing an Art Therapist for you: When initially meeting with the Art Therapist, do they convey a sense of safety, security and the ability to hear you empathetically? It is important that clients feel both physically safe and emotionally safe in order for authentic change to occur. The setting should be as confidential as possible, a range of art materials available. The Art Therapist needs to have training and experience dealing with your specific concern – personal growth, mental health issue, trauma or life event.

Marla Berger is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a Registered Art Therapist, Advanced Certified in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Learning through EAGALA, and a Therapeutic Riding Instructor certified by PATH International. Marla provides trainings locally and nationally on Art Therapy to promote greater understanding of the field.

Berger Counseling Services provides Art Therapy, Sandtray Therapy, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Learning, and Play Therapy techniques specializing in grief & loss, trauma, addiction and adoption. For more information, contact Marla at:561-866-3056,,

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