Art Therapist

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Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy which uses artistic activities to help people who have emotional, physical or psychological problems. People referred to art therapists often cannot communicate easily with others or may have lost touch with their feelings. Therapists encourage their clients to express themselves, clarify their feelings and relieve tension by using a variety of basic art materials, such as paint and paper, clay and collage. Art therapy is particularly helpful for younger children who may not be able to communicate well through speech. Therapists work on a one-to-one basis with individuals or groups of clients, helping them to create and understand images and develop personally and emotionally.

Most students are in their late 20s or early 30s. An Honours degree, or equivalent, in Visual Art or where graduate qualifications are not in the visual arts, for example Psychiatric Nursing, Social Work or Teaching, evidence of a substantial and developing body of current and recent art work is essential. Candidates are expected to present a portfolio of recent art work. Before postgraduate training some experience in a similar health or educational area, such as caring work, education, community work or experiential workshops is beneficial. Students usually self-finance their training courses, although a few are seconded by employers.

A degree (NFQ Level 8) in visual art (perhaps with a psychology element) is required for entry to the postgraduate course (NFQ Level 9) in art therapy at Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork. Applicants are also required to supply references from a clinical or professional person they have worked for, to have completed one year’s full-time clinical work experience, and produced a portfolio of art work.

Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork is the only institution in Ireland to offer the postgraduate course in art therapy. This course leads to an MA in Art Therapy and can be taken over two years full time or three years part time. It is a recognised qualification for art therapy practice in Ireland. The profession is hoping to gain official recognition in the near future by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Qualifying Courses

MA (Level 9) in Art Therapy at Cork Institute of Technology offered full time over 2 years or part time over 3 years.


MSc Art Psychotherapy (International) at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

Full-time: 2 years; Part-time: 3 – 4 years


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Other Information

Mary Grehan, Waterford Healing Arts Trust, Waterford Regional Hospital, Waterford (051) 842664 advised that there are two main career routes:-

Art Facilitation

Artist involved in art facilitation in health care or community settings –

B.A. (Honours) Degree in Art is usually sufficient for employers

Art Therapy

Art Therapy involves clients using art to help express their feelings. The Art Therapist provides a safe confidential space to support this expression and listen if the client wants to talk. Masters in Art Therapy is required to do this type of work.

Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists

PO Box 4176 Dublin 8