The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) defines art therapy as “an established mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.”

Art therapists are masters level professionals who hold a degree in art therapy or a related field. Educational requirements include: theories of art therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy; ethics and standards of practice; assessment and evaluation; individual, group, and family techniques; human and creative development; multicultural issues; research methods; and practicum experiences in clinical, community, and/or other settings. Art therapists are skilled in the application of a variety of art modalities (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other media) for assessment and treatment.

Art therapy is used with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, groups, and families to assess and treat mental health issues. Art therapists are masters level professionals who hold a degree in art therapy. To learn more about the professional credentialing of art therapists, please visit the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) website (

The American Art Therapy Association’s Code of Ethics can be downloaded here. More information on on the ethical principles for art therapists can be found on AATA’s ethics page.

About Art Therapy Credentialing

Most professional members of NEATA are credentialed art therapists. Below is a description of the professional credentialing of art therapists:

Registration – The designation “ATR” (Art Therapist Registered) is granted by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) to art therapists who have successfully completed the required graduate educational training and post graduate professional experience, which includes supervision by an ATR credentialed art therapist.

Board Certification – The designation “BC” (Board Certified) is granted by theArt Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) to ATR art therapists who have successfully passed the independently administered, national certification examination. Re-certification is provided every five years by documentation of continuing education, publication, presentation, exhibition, and other activities which demonstrate continuing professional competence.

Provisional – The designation “ATR-P” (Art Therapist Registered Provisional) is granted by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) to new graduates with successful completion of advanced specific graduate-level education in art therapy, and is practicing art therapy under an approved supervisor(s). Individuals are eligible to apply for this credential once they have completed their degree (or education requirements for the ATR-Provisional) and are engaged in a supervisory relationship with a qualified supervisor(s). The ATR-Provisional is not a required credential to apply for the ATR.

To learn more about the professional credentialing of art therapists, please visit the art therapy credentials board (ATCB) website.

It is important to know it is unethical for someone to practice art therapy or refer to themselves as an art therapist without obtaining a master’s degree in art therapy.

Credential Q&A

How do I become a registered and/or board certified art therapists?

Contact the ATCB National Office for Official Requirements at

The ATCB provides national registration (ATR) of completion for Master’s level work at an approved Art Therapy education program, two years of supervised practice and, board certification (BC) to those ATR art therapists who pass a nationally administered exam.

What are the advantages of becoming registered and board certified?

The ATR-BC is the highest credential you can earn as an art therapist. The ATR-BC is an assurance to employers, clients, and the public that you have met the rigorous standards set by a nationally recognized credentialing body.

What are the advantages of being a credentialed art therapist?

The ATR-BC is a national credential and is portable from state-to-state. The ATR-BC also means that you provide services within the ethical guidelines of the ATCB’s Code of Professional Practice.