Paint brushes as well as counseling techniques are the tools-of-the-trade for art therapists.

Art therapy allows people who have a passion for the visual arts to add a therapeutic element to their professional careers. Art therapists use art materials, a knowledge of psychology and experience in counseling to help their clients work through their emotional and physical challenges. To become an art therapist, practitioners must attend a qualified art therapy program. Fortunately, many exist, with each bringing a fascinating perspective to the profession.

Loyola Marymount University

Students accepted into the Loyola Marymount University program for art therapy participate in an educational curriculum that integrates a multicultural component. Students can study abroad for a summer in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico at the Instituto Allende. The Loyola program also teaches students how to use art therapy techniques in family situations, addressing the issues that can be caused by family dynamics. Additionally, the school does community outreach via the Helen B. Landgarten Art Therapy Clinic; the clinic provides underserved populations in its vicinity with art therapy services. Finally, graduate students in the program put their theoretical knowledge to the test by participating in several practica during their education.

Naropa University

Naropa University brings together the healing power of art with the contemplative life of the Buddha. Mindfulness is at the heart of Naropa's philosophy, and no matter what students study, a good amount of their time at the university centers around allowing their spiritual lives to influence their physical lives. The art therapy program also encourages graduate students in the program to be practicing artists, meaning that whether they are professional or not, these students engage in creating art before, during and after their time at Naropa. This practice assists them when working with their clients, who are themselves creating art to work out what troubles them.

New York University

For future art therapists who also enjoy research, the program at New York University offers the opportunity to delve into the theoretical foundations of art therapy in a metropolitan setting. This program is also one of the oldest in the country. It got its start in the 1950s and is among the first five art therapy training programs that the American Art Therapy Association approved. Throughout their educations, students in the program will continue to make art and learn how to integrate art into their therapeutic practices. These students learn the foundations of the profession in sequence, with each course of the curriculum building upon prior lessons. Finally, graduate students gain real world knowledge of the profession by doing internships in the field.

George Washington University

For art students at the bachelor's level who know that they want to continue on to get a master's degree in art therapy, the program at George Washington University holds much promise. Aside from offering a combined bachelor's/ master's program, students can specifically focus on specializations such as trauma training. It's also one of the oldest programs in the country and puts students in the heart of the nation's capital, granting graduate students access to galleries, museums and research facilities that will provide richness and depth to their studies. There's also an emphasis on helping students broaden their cross-cultural knowledge as well as the opportunity for students to do internships at one or more of over 100 internship sites in the area.