Getting Your Art Therapy Certification
As far as psychotherapy goes, art therapy is a fairly young discipline. Although people have known about the therapeutic benefits of creating art for a long time, it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that art therapy began developing into a profession. The field is rapidly gaining acceptance as a valid form of psychotherapy, particularly now that it is governed by professional organizations such as the American Art Therapy Association.
Like other mental health professions, people must be licensed to practice in the field. In some states, though, becoming board certified is also required or is an acceptable substitute for licensing. Whether you are required to earn an art therapy credential or not, getting one is an excellent way to prove you have what it takes to be a great art therapist.
What is an Art Therapy Credential?
Basically, art therapy credentials are proof that you have obtained the education and experience required to work in the field. To obtain the certification, art therapists must pass a nationwide exam filled with questions that pertain to the theories the discipline is based on as well as clinical skills. The certification is available through two organizations.
The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential. Since art therapy is considered a specialty of recreational therapy, people in this field qualify for this certification. The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) offers the Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential, Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC) designation, and the Art Therapy Certified Supervisors (ATCS) for those seeking supervisory positions.
Art Therapy Certification Requirements
The requirements for each certification are different. For the CTRS offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy. Equivalent work experience is also acceptable. Completion of a 560-hour internship in therapeutic recreation services is also required to be eligible to sit for the knowledge exam. The cost of the credential is $400 to $425 depending on whether or not your degree has been posted by the time you apply for the test.
A minimum of a master’s degree in art therapy is required to sit for the Registered Art Therapist exam offered by the Art Therapy Credentials Board. Completion of up to 1,000 clinical hours may be required and references from at least 3 supervisors must be submitted. The cost of the ATR exam is $125. To sit for the Board Certified Art Therapist certification, you must be an ATR in good standing. A passing score on the Art Therapy Credentials Board Examination for licensure is also required, though this may be waived in certain situations. The cost is $260 and the test is only available a few times per year.
The Art Therapy Certified Supervisor credential is a new offering from the Art Therapy Credentials Board. It is for people who want to demonstrate to employers that they are qualified to supervise other art therapists. This credential certifies that the holder has mastered the theories and competencies associated with supervisory positions in the industry. There are two avenues for getting this credential.
For those looking to be approved based on their education, applicants must have at least 100 hours of clinical experience supervising those providing art therapy services. Those looking to qualify based on their experience in the field must have at least 500 hours and 36 months of experience as a supervisor. This credential is subject to an annual maintenance fee of $25. In addition to these requirements, applicants must have a Board Certified Art Therapist credential and have maintained it for a minimum of 24 months.
All of these credentials expire after a certain period of time and must be renewed. Professionals who obtain the CTRS must submit an annual maintenance application and fee to maintain their credential. However, they must renew their credential every five years. The application for recertification is usually sent within 60 days of expiration. The application and fee must be sent in no earlier than one year prior and no later than the certification’s expiration date. To qualify for recertification, applicants must complete 50 hours of continuing education over the five year period.
The Art Therapy Credentials Board requires all credential holders to pay an annual maintenance fee to maintain their certifications. This fee varies depending on the credential. Like the CTRS, Board Certified Art Therapists must renew their certifications every five years. To qualify for the renewal test, applicants must complete at least 100 hours of continuing education during the five year period including 6 credit hours in the area of ethics. An alternative option is to retake and pass the Art Therapy Credentials Board Exam (ATCBE).
For those holding the Art Therapy Certified Supervisor credential, this has to be renewed every five years as well and must coincide with the renewal of your Board Certified Art Therapist credential. An additional 10 continuing education credits in supervision is also required for recertification.
It is important to note that both the Art Therapy Credentials Board and the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification randomly audits 10 percent of the applications for recertification submitted each year. If you are chosen, you will be required to submit written documentation of the continuing education courses taken. Failure to do so can result in a denial of recertification.
Why Get Certified?
In many cases, certification is not required. However, earning a credential in art therapy can be immensely beneficial. It tells the employer that you have the education and skills needed to be effective in your job. Art therapy credentials can provide a leg up over the competition, particularly in today’s job market when hundreds of people are often applying for the same job.
It is best to start preparing to earn credentials while you are still in school. Many of them require applicants to have completed a certain number of hours of clinical practice. Participating in internships or externships at your college or university is an excellent of getting this experience. Not only will you qualify for the credential, the job experience will look great on your resume.