What to Expect
How well do you really know yourself? Give it some thought before signing
up for an art therapy program. Self-examination is a key part of most
of art therapy programs. Some schools require students to get counseling.
Linda Turner took a special summer program in art therapy. "You must be
willing to take a deep look at yourself, including your demons," she
Ellis Eisner is a product of New York University's graduate art therapy
program. "I really had to learn to examine myself and be absolutely truthful...about
what I was thinking and feeling in relation to the work, patients, etc. It
was so hard to view myself as if under a microscope," says Eisner.
Time management talents are just as necessary as artistic ability
in an art therapy master's degree program. Michele Rattigan completed a master's
degree in art therapy at Philadelphia's MCP Hahnemann University. "There is
so much to learn and experience that at times it can seem overwhelming,"
"A typical day in the program was a long one, perhaps 12 to 14 hours,"
says Eisner. "It often began at 8:30 in the morning, which was the time I
had to report to my internship placement."
Eisner also worked for two semesters in the locked adolescent psychiatric
unit of a major metropolitan hospital. "After a full day at the hospital,
I would often have to go to NYU and take a class, typically between 6:10 and
Being so busy with classes and practicums meant that Eisner had to fit
the homework in whenever and wherever possible. "When I got home after one
of these days, usually around 10 p.m., there might be some prep work for the
following day for about an hour. I tried to avoid this by reading on the train
on the way home, but sometimes I couldn't."
Eisner says the main expenses were traveling, food, textbooks, photocopying,
art supplies and photographs of artwork.
Expenses and student timetables will vary between programs.
Rattigan says staying true to your art will help you keep your perspective.
"The creative process is an important one and the ultimate coping tool. Journaling
and doing art helped me keep from going insane when under pressure. And
in the long run, [it] was a great reference to review how I changed and grew
going through the program."
Fast fingers will also make your life easier. "It really saves a lot
of time if you can type quickly and with little effort," says Eisner.
When you're this busy, putting work off won't pay. "Even though you can
often get a time extension on papers that are due, try not to get into this
habit as they will accumulate very quickly," says Eisner. "This might make
you feel even more overwhelmed."
That can mean putting off fun stuff. "Things like going out, watching TV
and movies, socializing with friends and family, etc., often must be sacrificed."
To save money, Eisner recommends packing your lunch or scouting
for inexpensive restaurants, using free copy machines whenever possible,
buying used textbooks and shopping around for discount art supplies.
How to Prepare
Diane Ranger is another art therapy program graduate. "I think the best
preparation [for high school students] is to be sure of what they want
to do and why they want to become an art therapist," she says.
If you're sure your heart is in art, there are some things you can do.
"High school students can also contact their local graduate school that
provides art therapy education about having a graduate art therapy student
come to their school and do an in-service," says Ranger. "Many graduate students
are required to fulfill this service as a part of their coursework."