Art Therapy is an alternative form of treatment to reach, connect and help people who need mental health support or counseling. Such recreation-based treatments are known to be beneficial to assist with disabilities, accidents, or illnesses. Art Therapists may help patients develop skills that can help them gain independence, shape relationships, or cope with anxiety or stress by incorporating activities such as dance, sport, music, or arts and crafts. A Master’s in Art Therapy online program is largely based on Psychology, Therapy & Counseling, and Fine Arts. Through this program, students are trained to improve their social perceptiveness, active listening, and critical thinking to create the tools and therapeutic environment patients may need to understand their emotional conflicts, explore their feelings, and address their issues. Art Therapy can take two distinct approaches – Expressive Art and Counseling Art. While Expressive Art Therapy involves the systematic use of the expressive arts such as art, craft, dance, movement, sport, music, poetry, storytelling, drama, etc., Counseling Art Therapy intersects psychology, psychiatry, and human development with the expressive arts.

Masters in Art Therapy Online

Table Of Contents

Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

Best Masters in Art therapy Online Programs

Many universities offer Masters in Art Therapy Online Programs. We have reviewed dozens of such programs and created the list of best Art Therapy programs. We have considered the program and school accreditation, the structure of program offerings, faculty quality and experience, student support, internship opportunities, infrastructure, and of course, affordability, etc. Here are some of the best schools that offer the Masters in Art Therapy online program:

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
Florida State University
222 S. Copeland Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32306
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture
70 Washington Sq South, New York, New York 10012
George Washington University
1918 F Street, NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20052
Nazareth College
4245 East Ave, Rochester, New York 14618-3790
California Institute of Integral Studies
1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, California 94103
Marywood University
2300 Adams Ave, Scranton, Pennsylvania 18509
Seton Hill University
1 Seton Hill Drive, Greensburg, Pennsylvania 15601
Southwestern College
3960 San Felipe Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
Springfield College
263 Alden St, Springfield, Massachusetts 01109
Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11205
Drexel University
3141 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
School of the Art Institute, Chicago
36 S Wabash, Chicago, Illinois 60603
Antioch University Online
900 Dayton Street, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387
Hofstra University
100 Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York 11549
Saint Mary of the Woods College
1 St Mary of Woods Coll, Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana 47876
Albertus Magnus College
700 Prospect St, New Haven, Connecticut 06511
Ottawa University, Ottawa
1001 South Cedar, Ottawa, Kansas 66067
Edinboro University, Pennsylvania
219 Meadville Street, Edinboro, Pennsylvania 16444
Long Island University
720 Northern Blvd, Brookville, New York 11548
Prescott College
220 Grove Ave, Prescott, Arizona 86301

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Understanding Masters in Art Therapy Programs

Obtaining an Art Therapy degree online allows graduates to combine psychology and creative arts with helping people control their attitudes, anxiety, tension, and conflict. A Master’s in Art Therapy online program is designed to help students develop the skills and knowledge they will need to foster self-awareness, promote personal development, and build coping skills in their clients. They will also learn how to be effective therapists who use the various ways art and other creative skills can be instrumental in therapeutic intervention through the creative process and the medium of art and creative expression.

A Master’s in Art Therapy allows students to focus on specific types of creative expression and look at how the nonverbal process of making art can be used to evaluate patients and create treatment plans as well. Overall, these programs prepare students to become competent in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains.

Graduates in Art Therapy will be equipped to handle patients with extreme behavioral disorders and addictions, individuals coping with trauma, war, or violence, significant medical health conditions, injuries, or disabilities, and people struggling with acute stress, anxiety, and behavioral issues.

Masters in Art Therapy Degree Types

There are largely two types of Masters in Art Therapy degrees in the United States. Although both of them are built on the same premise of using psychology and the creative arts to achieve their learning outcomes, they are distinct in their approach.

MA Art Therapy

The Master of Arts or MA Art Therapy is based on a multi-disciplinary approach from the larger field of humanities and the arts. This degree is stronger in its emphasis on the creative process and creative expression sides of Art Therapy.

MFA Art Therapy

The Master of Science or MS Art Therapy is more technical and leans more towards psychology, psychotherapy, and research methodology, combined with all forms of creative expression.

Specializations in Masters in Art Therapy Programs

A Specialization in a Master’s in Art Therapy online program is a sure way of diving deeper into one specific area of interest within the larger scope of Art Therapy. Since both psychology and creative arts, upon which Art Therapy is built, are vast subjects, concentrating or specializing in one will present better career prospects and address one’s professional goals. Some examples of specializations in Art Therapy are:

  • Studio Art & Art Therapy
  • Expressive Arts Therapy
  • Painting Therapy
  • Art Counseling
  • Creative Arts Therapy
  • Photography & Phototherapy
  • Sculpture Therapy

Some specializations address specific populations and unconventional topics, examples of which are:

  • Art Therapy with Children
  • Art Therapy with Adolescents
  • Art Therapy and Thanatology

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Masters in Art therapy Online Programs

Master’s in Art Therapy curricula usually include the history of art therapy, art therapy techniques, characteristics of disabilities and illness, assessment procedures, psychology, psychiatric terminology, and human development. The curriculum is designed for students to develop a strong understanding of visual arts, fine arts, and performing arts and how to use this variety of art forms to guide patients through the creative process of healing. In general, Art Therapy courses online include but are not limited to:

  • Art for Art Therapists
  • Theory and Practice of Art Therapy
  • Cultural Diversity in Art Therapy
  • Ethical Issues in Art Therapy
  • Research in Art Therapy
  • Art Therapy Fieldwork
  • Use of Art Therapy in Group Psychotherapy and Psychopathology
  • Life Span Development in Art Therapy, Counseling & Psychotherapy
  • Studio Art in Therapy, Counseling, and Psychotherapy
  • Group Dynamics in Art Therapy
  • Studio Art for Art Therapists
  • Media, Materials, and Processes
  • Social and Cultural Foundations in Art Therapy
  • Professional Ethics in Art Therapy/Counseling
  • Addiction Assessment and Treatment in Art Therapy/Counseling  
  • Theory and Practice of Family Art Therapy/Counseling
  • Ethical and Legal Issues in Art Therapy
  • Cultural Dimensions in Art Therapy 
  • Creative Process as Art Therapy   
  • Basic Skills for Psychotherapy and the Use of Art Therapy
  • Research Methods in Art Therapy, Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Symbolism, Creativity, and Metaphor in Art Therapy
  • Professional Identity for Art Therapists
  • Art Therapy/Counseling with Children and Adolescents
  • Art Therapy and Psychological Assessment Techniques
  • Theories of Counsel & Art Therapy
  • Psychopathology
  • Techniques of Practice in Helping Relationships
  • Art Therapy: Theory & Practice
  • Art Therapy with Children
  • Art Therapy with Groups
  • Art Therapy Studio
  • Trauma Theory & Practice (Art Therapy)
  • Art Therapy with Adults
  • History & Theory of Art
  • Art Psychotics & Trauma
  • Marital & Family Art
  • Art Therapy/Counseling and Substance Use Disorders
  • Orientation to Expressive Therapies
  • Human Development Across the Lifespan
  • Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethical Practice
  • Examining Power Privilege & Oppression in Clinical Practice
  • Explorations in Community-Based Art Practices
  • Family Systems (Art Therapy)
  • Clinical Treatment & Evaluation (Art Therapy)
  • Issues in Clinical Mental Health
  • Trauma Counseling
  • Issues in Art Therapy Practice
  • Multicultural Therapy (Art Therapy)
  • Ritual and Art Making in Healing
  • Adult Art Development
  • Art Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Cultural and Social Issues in Art Therapy
  • Community Access Through the Arts
  • Adaptive Techniques in Art Therapy
  • Theories in Art Therapy
  • Group Counseling: Art Therapy
  • Principles and Practices of Expressive Arts Therapy
  • Art for Social Justice & Human Development
  • Professional Counseling Orientation (Art Therapy)
  • Neuropsychology & Bio Bases of Behavior
  • Contextual Dimensions & Foundations of MHC
  • Treatment of Trauma, Abuse, and Deprivation
  • History of Art Therapy: Founders & Foundations    
  • Hermeneutics of Depth Psychology
  • Art Therapy Techniques
  • Assessment & Appraisal in Art Therapy/Counseling
  • Child Art Development
  • Adolescent Art Development
  • Processes, Methods, and Materials in Art Therapy
  • Group Counseling Techniques and Group Art Therapy
  • Counseling and Art Therapy: Theory and Practice
  • Advanced Counseling & Art Psychotherapy Skills
  • Processes & Materials of Art Psychotherapy
  • Group Supervision Counseling & Psychotherapy with Children
  • Group Supervision Counseling & Psychotherapy with Adolescents
  • Group Supervision Counseling & Psychotherapy with Adults
  • Trauma-Informed Art Psychotherapy & Counseling
  • Art Media & Materials Use in Art Therapy
  • Art Therapy Group Dynamics & Special Populations
  • Developmental Treatment Models in Art Therapy
  • Art Therapy Advanced Assessment & Techniques in Relationships & Families
  • Introduction to Art Therapy Research

In addition to basic courses in an Art Therapy Master’s, many schools also require at least one elective to be opted for, such as:

  • Workshop in Expressive Therapies: Art, Drama, Dance, Music
  • Therapeutic Art in Special Education
  • Dream Seminar
  • Medical Art Therapy
  • Art Therapy for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Art Therapy and The Aging Process
  • Phototherapy
  • Watercolor
  • Mixed Media Drawing
  • Landscape Painting
  • Ceramic Sculpture
  • Illustration
  • Color Theory and Color Techniques
  • Sculpture in Wood
  • Painting: Composition and Critique
  • Eastern Art and the Drawing Process
  • Collage and Assemblage
  • Psychological Portraiture
  • Contemporary Fiber Arts

As for learning outcomes and skills that will be acquired at the end of a Master’s in Art Therapy program, graduates will demonstrate the ability to:

  • inspire their clients to express themselves artistically with the use of methods such as drawing, sculpting, painting, collage-making, and coloring;
  • enhance or restore the client’s ability to work, and strengthen the sense of personal well-being;
  • investigate their client’s artistic thinking process to decipher the underlying meanings in their art, and then use psychotherapeutic counseling techniques to help them understand their emotional problems and develop coping skills; and
  • explore their clients’ emotions, resolve emotional conflicts, cultivate self-awareness, control actions, build social skills, enhance reality orientation, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem using art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork.

Accreditation for Online Masters in Art Therapy Programs

In almost all cases, Art Therapists are required to be registered, licensed, and certified. But the prerequisite to all of these is graduation from an accredited school or program. Accreditation is an endorsement of a school or program’s quality and high standards, which paves the way for Licensure and practice. Students should therefore always opt for accredited Art Therapy schools online. American Art Therapy Association (AATA) approved Art Therapy programs are the ones to consider.

While some programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), there are other accrediting agencies, such as the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education (ACATE), under the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), among others.

To understand how important accreditation is, one should read the Accreditation Guide.

Timeline for graduation from Masters in Art therapy Online Programs

Most Master’s in Art Therapy online programs typically take two years to complete, which sometimes includes a supervised clinical practicum. Quite naturally, schools that offer flexibility for working students may require about three years or more to complete. Programs that are approved by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), depending on program requirements, may take anywhere from 18 months to 42 months, which roughly translates to about 48 to 60-semester credits.

Masters in Art therapy Online Programs Admission Requirements

As with other Master’s programs in Health Care, such as  Clinical ResearchCounselingKinesiology, Exercise ScienceOccupational TherapySpeech Pathology, etc., applicants to a Master’s in Art Therapy online must have earned a Bachelor’s Degree a regionally accredited institution. The Bachelor’s Degree should preferably be in majors such as, but not limited to, studio art, psychology, art therapy, art education, and behavioral and social sciences. Semester credits in various courses such as drawing, painting, two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, ceramics, photography, sculpture, etc., are an added advantage, as are credits in developmental psychology and abnormal psychology. The additional Art Therapist education requirements are:

  • An Application Form with the required Application Fee
  • Official Academic Transcripts
  • Resume
  • Personal Statement
  • 2 to 3 Letters of Recommendation

A Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 is expected, failing which a standardized test score such as the GRE may be required.

Additionally, some schools may also require academic writing samples, portfolios, volunteer or paid experience, or an internship working under supervision with people with special needs. In certain cases, applicants may also be interviewed. It is therefore prudent to check with the college or program guide for specific or additional admission requirements.

Free Art Therapy Courses

While useful for students and practitioners to enhance their knowledge of the subject, free Art Therapy courses do not award a Master’s degree. Learning and practicing Art Therapy requires graduation from an accredited university (and/or program), and further certification and Licensure, not made possible by free courses alone. Having said that, there are courses related to a Master’s in Art Therapy one could consider for a better understanding of what Art Therapy is about, explore the field before applying for a Master’s program, or use them to further one’s knowledge. Some examples are:

  1. Skillshare
    Skillshare has a handful of online Art Therapy classes on various topics that are predominantly associated with drawing, sketching, illustrating, and painting.
  2. Alison
    Alison offers just four Art Therapy courses on Dementia Care, Elderly Care and Caring for the Disabled, Health and Safety for Caregiving, and Introduction to Caregiving.
  3. Udemy
    Although courses in Art Therapy hosted by Udemy are usually paid courses, some of them are often heavily discounted or offered for free periodically.
  4. Class Central
    Class Central pools in free Art Therapy courses from Skillshare, edX, FutureLearn, and more, with many courses developed by the Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Columbia University, to name a few. Courses are either self-paced or flexible.
  5. Coursesity
    From Art Therapy in the Early Years to Consciousness through Art to Dementia and the Arts and Art Therapy for Depression & Anxiety, Coursesity offers a diverse selection of free Art Therapy courses.

How to Pay for Masters in Art therapy Online Programs

In the United States, tuition for a standard Master’s in Art Therapy online program can run into several thousand dollars. With each passing year, the cost of a Master’s degree continues to rise, necessitating a look at credible funding mechanisms that can ease the financial burden associated with advanced education. Some such funding mechanisms include:


Several universities offer merit-based scholarships, alumnae-funded grants, and fellowships to eligible students. Private organizations often award scholarships based on academic achievement, community service, cultural heritage, religious affiliation, and other factors. Disability ScholarshipsAfrican American Scholarships, and Scholarships for Women are some specific types of scholarships to explore as well. (Note: Be aware of the many Scholarship Scams doing their rounds.)


To cover student and education-related expenditures such as books, research materials, travel, student housing, and so on, in addition to tuition fees, grants are a good funding option to consider. Grants are usually need-based and do not necessarily depend on academic achievements.

Graduate Assistantships

Some universities offer Graduate Teaching Assistantships or Graduate Research Assistantships to students pursuing a Master’s degree. Graduate Assistants support classroom functions and assist senior teachers with carrying out their duties. They are paid a stipend that can contribute towards funding the cost of their Master’s program.

Working on Campus

In certain cases, Universities allow students to study and work within the campus. Part-time employment may be sought against a wage, and this, in turn, can help offset some of the costs involved in pursuing a Master’s degree.

Student Loans

Those who do not mind paying an interest against a borrowing, Federal loans, bank loans, and private loans can be relatively simple ways to raise funds. However, students should handle their finances better and pay back such loans on time to avoid accruing interest and increasing student debt.


A popular way to raise funds for tuition is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is a form used to assess a student’s eligibility for financial aid. More information on FAFSA can be found here.

Other funding mechanisms and more information on them are illustrated in the best Financial Guide.

FAQs about Art Therapy Programs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Master’s in Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is an alternative form of treatment to reach, connect and help people who need mental health support or counseling through the blending of psychology and the creative process of using dance, sport, music, or arts and crafts as therapeutic techniques.

How to study Art Therapy?

Can I be an Art Therapist without a degree?

How to be an Art Therapist?

What is Expressive Arts?

What is Transpersonal Art Therapy?

Careers and Salary Outlook for Masters in Art Therapy Graduates

Once they graduate, students of a Master’s in Art Therapy qualify to work in a wide spectrum of professional settings, including:

  • Nursing Homes
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Clinics and Hospitals
  • Mental Health Clinics
  • Pediatric Oncology
  • Outpatient Services
  • Palliative Care and Hospice Centers
  • Veteran Centers
  • Residential Schools
  • Daycare Centers
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Prisons
  • Special and Mainstream Educational Institutions
  • Shelters
  • Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centers
  • Private Practices

Graduates, after certification and Licensure, can seek jobs as:

  • Private Practitioners
  • Clinic Therapists
  • Lead Clinicians
  • Senior Art Therapists
  • Art Therapy Professors
  • Art Therapy Counselors

The salary of Art Therapists largely depends on the individual’s credentials, experience, and where they reside and practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which, unlike Occupational TherapistsSpeech-Language Pathologists, and Exercise Physiologists, inserts Art Therapists as ‘Therapists, All Other’, the annual Art Therapist mean wage is reported to be $62,090. Professionals in the top 90% of the category earned $96,160 as of May 2020.

Certifications and Licensing for Art Therapy Graduates

Certifications hold the key to a rewarding career in Art Therapy. Being certificated is essential for Licensure and to work in most sectors of the industry. Graduates of a Master’s in Art Therapy should consider getting the Registered Art Therapist (ATR)certification, which confirms that they have completed specialized and unique graduate-level Art Therapy education, along with supervised post-graduate Art Therapy experience, and meet existing requirements. After that, graduates will require to work for a few years to become a Board-Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC) after taking the voluntary Art Therapy Credentials Board Exam (ATBCE). Being board certified shows that the Art Therapist is highly trained and competent, crucial to a successful practice. Experienced Board-Certified Art Therapists who provide clinical supervision can also consider becoming an Art Therapy Certified Supervisor (ATCS). All these credentials are awarded by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB).

Apart from the ATCB, other organizations also offer certification, such as the Association for Play Therapy (APT), which awards the ‘Registered Play Therapist (RPT)’, ‘Registered Play Therapist – Supervisor (RPT-S)’, and ‘School-Based – Registered Play Therapist (SB-RPT)’ credentials.

While many states such as New Jersey, Mississippi, Oregon, and Connecticut require a professional Art Therapy license titled ‘Licensed Professional Art Therapist’, or ‘Clinical Licensed Art Therapist’, other states such as Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Utah have their unique and distinct Licensure. For example, Utah requires an ‘Associate Clinical Mental Health Counselor License’. New York requires the ‘Licensed Creative Arts Therapist’, and Texas requires a candidate to be a ‘Licensed Professional Counselor with Specialty Designation in Art Therapy’.

For exact and more information on Licensure, state-wise, students are advised to visit the American Art Therapy Association (AATA).

Additional Resources for Art Therapy Professionals

Considering the pillars of psychology and creative arts, on which Art Therapy is built, are fast-changing and ever-evolving, it is important for students of Master’s in Art Therapy and working Art Therapists to keep abreast with the latest in the field. Moreover, since real-world scenarios can often be vastly different from theories found in books, networking with other Art Therapists, sharing insights, comparing notes, and finding real-world solutions through collaboration is equally essential. Here are a few additional resources to explore for those interested in diving deeper into the world of Art Therapy:

  1. Art Therapy Without Borders
    Art Therapy Without Borders seeks to promote international and humanitarian Art Therapy initiatives in mental health, healthcare, and education, worldwide. There are resources on various Art Therapy topics, ranging from Trauma and Social Action to Disaster Relief and Autism.
  2. American Art Therapy Association (AATA)
    The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) offers many resources for students or Art Therapy and practicing Art Therapists. Apart from awarding scholarships, credentials, and Licensure, the site is home to research work, publications, conferences, and many more.
  3. MyAATA
    MyAATA is an arm of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) and is a resource library and online community available exclusively to AATA members. Art Therapists who wish to enhance their careers or become mentors or mentees can register on MyAATA to unlock an ocean of possibilities.
  4. Art Therapy Blog
    The Art Therapy Blog has interesting insights, articles, activities, ideas, and more on Art Therapy. The portal also covers education, mental health, and autism.
  5. Therapist Aid
    Therapist Aid is a truly exceptional website for Art Therapists. It has worksheets, interactives, guides, videos, and articles on various topics like anger, anxiety, parenting, self-esteem, stress, depression, substance abuse, emotions, etc.
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