In order to be an art therapist, a master’s level is needed by those who hold a degree in art therapy, or in a related field. Furthermore, an art therapist needs to have professional credentialing, which involves the Art Therapy Credentials Board, also known as the ATCB. Following the American Art Therapy Association, also known as the AATA, it became the national credentialing body for governing art therapy. And the ATCB Board has now recognized several mental health fields that are associated with art therapy–counseling, marriage and family therapy, social work, psychology, addictions counseling, psychiatric nursing, and psychiatry.
Both organizations, the American Art Therapy Association and the Art Therapy Credentials Board, are continuously being confused with their similarities and differences. Some of this has to do with the fact both that both are considered as non-profit organizations, both have independent purposes, and both are separate legal entities. Each company has their own board of directors and separate management offices, while operating according to their own articles of incorporation and bylaws. And last but not least, each company has its own respective mission as its own particular goal.
The mission of the American Art Therapy Association is to “serve its members and the general public by providing standards of professional competence, and developing and promoting knowledge in, and of, the field of art therapy.” The American Art Therapy Association is primarily responsible for developing and sustaining art therapy at large, actively involved in setting educational standards for the art therapy programs.
A powerful form of self-expression, art therapy eventually began to be a valuable therapeutic tool for those who were mentally ill or even emotionally disturbed. And over the years, art therapy began to use painting and drawing to form the basis of a working relationship between the therapist and their patient, revealing hidden or unconscious emotions and issues.
We know that without the development of art therapy, the American Art Therapy Association would never have been developed. But the need for the American Art Therapy Association began a long time after art therapy originated, even though visual expression had been used throughout the entire history of humanity. Art therapy began in the 1940s when the psychiatrists began to become very interested in the artwork of their mentally ill patients. Additionally, those who were involved with education and children’s artwork were simultaneously discovering that the creative process demonstrated many things: the individuals developmental stages, their emotion state, and the lack or disorder of cognitive growth.
Today, art therapy encompasses many aspects and has become an increasingly prestigious and recognized field, with the American Art Therapy Association setting forth the educational, professional, and ethical standards for its members. And those members who have membership in the American Art Therapy Association have an advantage of employment over those who do not.
Many states individually regulate the art therapy practice, with some allowing the art therapists becoming licensed as counselors or mental health therapists, as members who belong to the AATA are dedicated to the belief that the creative process is healing and life enhancing.