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Art Therapy/Therapist


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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 says.

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," she warns.

"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 8:30 p.m."

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.

Survival Tips

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."


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