You might be surprised at the different kinds of companies and industries that employer art therapists. Art therapy jobs are highly appealing to art enthusiasts who want a more financially stable career than you’re likely to find through solely making art, according to Psychology Today. As a result, the job market is fairly competitive. Knowing all of the different areas in which you should look for employment as an art therapist can make your job search a lot easier. Some of the kinds of companies that art therapists often work for include healthcare companies that range from large health and hospital systems to small private practices, social services organizations and public and private schools.
Healthcare Systems and Practices
Art therapists often work with client populations who have some form of physical or mental health concern, so it makes sense that healthcare systems and companies are often the ones to hire these professionals, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Within this broad industry are many different types of companies and roles. While some art therapists may work with a general population of patients within the health system, others are specialized, working in areas such as oncology services, hospice and eating disorders.
General medical hospitals, as well as psychiatric hospitals, are common employers of art therapists. In hospitals, where the art therapist works with patients admitted on an inpatient basis, group therapy sessions are common. Children’s hospitals are particularly likely to have art therapists on staff, but hospitals serving adults may also provide employment opportunities in this field. Other inpatient facilities, including assisted living, long-term care, physical rehabilitation and nursing home facilities, often have art therapist positions, as well.
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Addiction and substance abuse treatment providers often have a place for art therapy in their multipronged treatment efforts. In companies of this nature, the art therapist may work with individual substance users as well in as group settings. Work with clients may include reflecting on parts of their lives, including the substance use itself and events or stressors that bring on the urge to use, that they want to change or leave behind as well as changing behaviors associated with using drugs.
Many jobs for art therapists exist in outpatient clinics devoted to mental or behavioral health, counseling or art therapy specifically. Art therapists may choose to create their own jobs by opening a private practice or join a group, private practice or agency owned by another company.
In some cases, staffing agencies, rather than medical and behavioral health companies themselves, are responsible for recruiting art therapists. Although staffing agencies often look for temporary and contract employees, some of these opportunities are long-term.
Social Services Organizations
If you feel a calling to do good in the world, putting your art therapy education to work in a social services organization may be the fulfilling career option you’re seeking. These community and social services organizations can be public or private, non-profit or for-profit, and they often involve working with specific client populations. Some examples of populations an art therapist may work with in a social services organization include youth, older adults, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, veterans, individuals with autism spectrum disorder and incarcerated populations.
Arts organizations represent another community-based niche for art therapists to tap into when seeking employment. Many arts organizations provide other services besides art therapy, such as art education and after-school programming activities.
Public School Districts and Private Academies
Public and private schools are among the other major employers of art therapists. Often, art therapists in educational settings work in the area of special education, whether in niche schools devoted to students with special needs or in special education classrooms of traditional public schools. They may help students who face challenges such as autism, ADHD and a broad group of learning disabilities and mental and behavioral health disorders to reach their potential in finding appropriate and effective ways to express emotions and solve problems.
Other school art therapists work with the general population of students, where they provide support to all students and, in some positions, offer mental health counseling services when needed. Art therapy has proven to be effective as both a learning tool in the classroom and a field to be integrated into the design of programs and curricula, according to the American Art Therapy Association. In fact, experts have found that the therapeutic use of art among schoolchildren can aid in developing skills in reasoning, organizing thoughts and communicating fears.
As a primarily non-verbal form of expression – not to mention, a fun one – art therapy is often ideal for young children, who may lack the language skills needed to express intense emotions verbally.