Online Art Therapy Ph.D. Programs

By Nikita Nath

Updated March 15, 2024

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online

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Art therapy is a process that looks at creating different forms of art or viewing how others express themselves through that art. Art therapy programs can help students understand how to use art to help people explore their stress patterns, manage addictions, relieve stress, and improve their self-esteem. The art therapy Ph.D. online is an advanced degree that explores how to creatively express with different kinds of art and foster the process of mental well-being. Doctoral students learn about art therapy, artistic design, art and religion, contemporary art, and various other topics. This guide explains the Ph.D. in art therapy online degree, its requirements, available career options, and much more.

Online Art Therapy Ph.D. Programs

Best Art Therapy Online
Ph.D. Programs

The right Ph.D. in art therapy can provide students with a variety of career and research opportunities. As a result, it is critical to find a reputable college with experienced and qualified faculty, excellent research facilities, and access to mentors and guides and see that the institution is accredited and affordable. Keeping these and other considerations in mind, the following are some of the best art therapy Ph.D. online programs in the country: *

Dominican University of California, established in 1890 as Dominican College by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, is a private university in San Rafael, California. One of the oldest universities in California, it offers over 60 academic majors, minors and concentrations, including 10+ graduate programs to more than 1,800 students.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
Dominican University of California(ONCAMPUS) 50 Acacia Ave, San Rafael, California 94901 $16,048 77%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from Online Art
Therapy Ph.D. Programs

In the Ph.D. in art therapy online program, students are prepared to become educators, scholars, researchers, clinical art therapists, etc. The program’s curriculum centers around human creative expression as a catalyst for change and improving people’s well-being. The coursework emphasizes using art therapy to address the most critical issues in our society and focuses on research skills and techniques required for one’s dissertation.

Most art therapy Ph.D. programs also have a clinical emphasis; it focuses on creating knowledge that will help graduates serve diverse populations in different settings like community, academia, integrative healthcare systems, and private practice, among others.

Art therapy doctoral programs entail foundational courses, specialization courses and electives, an examination, a doctoral dissertation, and a dissertation defense. Some programs also offer 100-plus hours of internship in art therapy, focusing on clinical principles and works of art therapy in settings like mental health centers, community organizations, and schools.

Here are some of the standard components of the Ph.D. art therapy program:


The doctoral coursework gives students experiences in topics like clinical supervision, foundations of thanatology in art therapy, qualitative research methods, applied statistics in research, art therapy pedagogy, etc.


Ph.D. students often teach during their program as a way of funding their education and gaining experience along with it. They can work as research apprentices under the guidance of their academic advisors or as graduate teaching assistants in their department or other departments in their college.

Doctoral Candidacy Exam

A student must pass the doctoral candidacy exam, usually after completing the initial doctoral coursework. The exam aims to test the students’ understanding of the essential topics for completing the degree.


The doctoral dissertation is an essential component of the doctoral degree. It contributes to a student’s skills, knowledge, and expertise in art therapy. Students will engage in in-depth research and scholarship on essential issues in art therapy. They must conduct research and write documents based on their findings and inferences. The culmination of the dissertation comes with successfully defending the thesis before a dissertation committee.

Internship or Practicum

This component is added to the art therapy program to give students real-world experience. Students might be assigned specific community outreach sites, where they would work around 6 to 10 hours per week. The internship experience gives students an insider’s perspective on how to use art therapy to better the lives of others.

Some past research topics of Ph.D. in art therapy online programs are:

  • Art Therapy Implications in Stress Reduction
  • Art Therapy for Mothers After Post-Partum Depression
  • Doodling as Self-Expression
  • Art and its Therapeutic Benefits on Children 
  • Art Therapy for Self-Forgiveness and Resiliency in Young Adults
  • Art-Based Inquiry of Therapy
  • Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy
  • Art As Spiritual Care
  • Qualitative And Arts-Based Research
  • Art-Based Communication for Individuals with Dissociative Disorders
  • Cultural Wellness Trends with Art Therapy
  • Art Therapy in The Exploration of Identity

To understand more about Ph.D. programs, read the Guide to Ph.D. Programs.

Areas of Specialization in Online
Art Therapy Ph.D. Programs

Art therapy Ph.D. students can gain in-depth knowledge and expertise when pursuing specializations in a sub-field of art therapy. Specialization increases one’s employment options and potential for better pay. Some examples of concentration areas in the Ph.D. expressive arts therapy online program include:

Area of Specialization Description Career Options
Sculpture TherapyIn sculpture therapy, students learn how to make individuals feel more relaxed and understand their emotions. They learn to differentiate the client’s emotional level before sculpting and post-sculpting.Art therapists, sculptors, public artists, studio artists, art directors
Expressive Arts TherapyIn this specialization, students learn to use expressive arts therapy as a multimodal therapy. It draws on different single-modal approaches like dance, music, writing, and art therapies. Students learn techniques and incorporate tools to help their clients.Jobs in nonprofits and healthcare industries
Painting TherapyIn this specialization, students learn how to use paint to deal with patients’ symptoms of depression, bulimia, and other disorders. They will also use drawing therapy to promote self-awareness in themselves and their patients.Jobs as an art therapist in individual, group, or community settings
Art CounselingThis specialization teaches students how to use art to improve self-esteem, well-being, and confidence. They will learn about various art tools students can use in counseling.As art therapists working with individuals with disabilities and special needs students and in addiction centers and counseling settings
Creative Arts TherapyIn this specialization, students learn how to use interventions, including coloring, painting, drawing, photography, etc., to help clients use their imagination. Students learn the tools and strategies which they will deploy in different settings.Creative arts therapists, art therapists, drama therapists
Photography and PhototherapyIn this specialization, students learn many photo-interactive activities like photo-posing, planning, discussing, viewing, etc. Students can lessen their conflict, sharpen their visual literacy skills, enhance education, and expand on other kinds of photo-based emotional learning and healing.Employment as an art therapist in community, individual, and hospital settings

Why should I do an Art Therapy
Ph.D. Online?

A doctoral program in art therapy prepares students to become leaders in their field of art therapy. It helps them build skills and create new knowledge in the field. Students pursuing art therapy Ph.D. programs will be able to serve diverse populations in different settings, from integrative healthcare systems and academia to community organizations and private practice, in senior and responsible positions.

This program focuses on research excellence; therefore, students inclined to research may find this program very interesting. Some colleges also specialize in using Adlerian principles, which students can use to their academic and professional advantage. The Ph.D. in art therapy online is best suited for those interested in art and its therapeutic benefits, as well as those who want to investigate how making art can help people relax and build resilience. Being able to comfort or heal people in original and distinctive ways can be a rich and fulfilling experience.

Upon earning their Ph.Ds., students will be able to showcase many skills, including the ability to:

  • integrate practice, critical thinking skills, and ethical and cultural awareness in the field of art therapy and put them into practice in real-life situations;
  • design rigorous curriculum in art therapy and give individualized mentorship, hands-on experience, and artistic guidance to others in the field;
  • demonstrate the ability to apply principles of art therapy in clinical practices or settings like mental health centers, community organizations, and schools;
  • showcase skills and knowledge which can be used to bring change in the lives of individuals;
  • use art therapy as a healing modality, contributing to developing the well-being of an individual;
  • show in-depth knowledge of applied statistics in research and apply it to areas of art therapy;
  • build art therapy pedagogy and art-based research programs and techniques;
  • work with individuals having mental and physical disabilities;
  • demonstrate ethics and principles while working in different areas of art therapy.

For a deeper insight into doctoral programs, read the Guide to Ph.D. Programs.

Free Courses for Art Therapy
Ph.D. Online Students

Students can dive deep into the subject of art therapy by taking free art therapy Ph.D. courses. Some courses go beyond the textbook and can provide students with critical material for their research and dissertation writing. Here are some worthwhile, free courses to look into:

Course Description Provided by
Healing with the ArtsThrough this free course, students learn about different art projects, including dance, writing, music, and visual arts. They also combine guided imagery and spiritual practice tools. The course explains the tools to heal individuals and their mental, spiritual, and emotional states.Coursera
Art and Ideas: Teaching with ThemesThis course helps students gain exposure to many digital resources art therapists can use. They learn how to use thematic approaches in art in society.Coursera
Dementia and the ArtThis course helps students develop qualitative strategies for people with dementia. Students will be able to reflect upon scientific research bridged with clinical services and arts-based practices.Future Learn

How to get into the Art Therapy
Ph.D. Online Program?

The admissions requirements to colleges providing a Ph.D. in art therapy degrees vary from one college to another. However, some of the common art therapy Ph.D. online admission requirements are:

  • A master’s degree or its equivalent from a nationally or regionally accredited institution
  • Application form with fee
  • Two to three Letters of Recommendation (should contain both professional and academic recommendations)
  • Official transcripts from all previous universities and colleges attended
  • Grade Point Average of 3.0 or higher in the graduate degree program
  • Portfolio or artwork to demonstrate competence in art-related work or material (students may need to present this in an admission interview)
  • Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement
  • Preliminary or in-person interview (may be conducted online)
  • Graduate Résumé
  • Published scholarly academic writing (could include a master’s thesis)
  • Proof of registration as an art therapist or studio credit of around 18 hours (varies by the institution)

Art Therapy Ph.D. Online
No GRE Programs

For admission to art therapy Ph.D. programs in the U.S., the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score is frequently needed. However, over the past few years, many universities have abandoned this requirement under certain conditions – for example, if a student has a high GPA or a lot of professional experience. A few others make the submission of GRE scores optional. The Adler University, Chicago, and the Dominican University of California are examples of universities that offer art therapy Ph.D. online no GRE programs.

How Long does it take to complete an
Art Therapy Ph.D. Online?

The length of an art therapy Ph.D. online could range from about five to six years. However, some students also take up to more than six years to complete their program. Some factors that influence the duration of the program include the coursework and passing of examinations, conducting research on the chosen topic, writing the dissertation, and defending it in front of a dissertation committee. Depending on a student’s abilities and time constraints, one could take as many as eight years to earn their Ph.Ds.

Accelerated Art Therapy Ph.D.
Online Programs

Students can fast-track their Ph.D. programs in a variety of ways, allowing them to complete the program in less time. Many institutes offer their coursework on a trimester or quarterly basis. However, an accelerated art therapy Ph.D. online program may not adhere to this timetable. Students will take classes throughout the year rather than during specific periods, with summer classes included. Fast-tracking the curriculum can save students at least a year or two over a traditional program, allowing them to complete their Ph.Ds. in 4 to 5 years (or less).

Accreditations for Art Therapy
Ph.D. Online Programs

Accreditation is a quality assessment process that aids in regulating educational institutions. A degree program may be programmatically accredited, or the college that offers it may be institutionally accredited. The Art Therapy Credentials Board, in collaboration with the American Art Therapy Association, is the accredited body for art therapy programs. The Art Therapy Credentials Board oversees programmatic accreditation and ensures that institutes offering art therapy programs adhere to ethical principles. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs occasionally accredits programs in art therapy.

Aside from accredited art therapy Ph.D. programs online, students can choose regionally or nationally accredited universities. Regional accreditation is common of the two, provided by six independent accrediting bodies approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), or both. The six bodies are:

  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

For more on accreditation, read the Guide to College Accreditation.

How to Pay for an Art Therapy
Ph.D. Online Program?

Art therapy Ph.D. programs cost a lot of money. According to Education Data, the average cost of a doctorate in the United States is $98,800. Even if they have no other out-of-pocket expenses, such as transportation or lodging, a prospective online student may be unable to afford the high tuition and related research costs. Fortunately, several individuals, organizations, businesses, and universities offer financial aid to alleviate the financial burden that students may face, which may include:


Scholarships are given to students who have excelled academically and/or in extracurricular activities. Students prefer them because they do not require repayment and can be obtained quickly and easily.


A grant, as opposed to a loan, is a type of financial assistance that does not require repayment. In addition, while scholarships are typically given for academic achievement, grants are given to students who demonstrate financial need.


Doctoral students can apply for predoctoral fellowships, also known as Ph.D. fellowships. Accepting a fellowship as a Ph.D. student usually comes with strings attached, such as completing a specific research project or spending the funds awarded in a particular way. The most promising students can apply for one of several awards and fellowships designed to help them stay in school and get hired after graduation.

Work-Study Programs

Work-study programs allow students to earn money for college expenses while still attending class full-time. Through these programs, students earn money while gaining valuable work experience and bridging the gap between classroom theory and the workplace.

Graduate Assistantships

A graduate assistantship allows students to work a set number of hours per week in their college in exchange for a tuition waiver or fee reduction. Graduate research assistantships and graduate teaching assistantships are the two types of assistantships.

Student Loans

Student loans are available to help pay for a doctoral student’s education. They can be obtained from a variety of banks, credit unions, and government agencies. Because of the interest that must be paid, the cost of higher education will rise if a loan is obtained. Read about Donors for Student Loans and Grants for Student Loans to learn how to apply for loan forgiveness and avoid repaying student loans.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is an application for federal financial aid that all prospective and current college students can submit to check if they qualify or are eligible for aid. The FAFSA Student Aid guide explains more.

Fully Funded Art Therapy
Ph.D. Online Programs

Fully funded Ph.D. programs allow students to further their careers without taking mounting debt. Most fully funded Ph.Ds. are competitive programs, and admissions are highly regulated. The awards need not be monetary; they could be in the form of graduate assistantships, tuition funding, research funding, stipends, and insurance. Since Art therapy is a relatively new field compared to other Ph.D. degrees, it is not easy to find fully funded art therapy Ph.D. online programs in the country. Therefore, students must look to support their education through full-time or part-time jobs, apply for grants and scholarships, or seek reimbursements from their current employers.

FAQs Related to the Art Therapy
Ph.D. Online Program

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is the use of creative and expressive arts for an individual’s personal growth. It helps in improving the cognitive and sensorimotor functions of individuals, aiding them in overcoming behavioral and mental challenges.

What can I do with a Ph.D. in art therapy?

What is the cost of a Ph.D. in art therapy?

Can you get an art therapy Ph.D. online?

How long does a Ph.D. in art therapy take?

How do you get a Ph.D. in art therapy?

Career Opportunities and Salaries
after a Ph.D. in Art Therapy

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that art therapists could expect an annual salary between $30,000 and $80,000[1]. However, this statistic was last updated in 2015. Besides, Ph.D. holders with certification and licensure can expect higher pay than their bachelor’s and master’s counterparts. And because art therapy can be used in so many ways and have various use cases, art therapy professionals can work in a wide range of industries, spanning academic to healthcare. Some occupations for which art therapy Ph.D. programs online prepare students are:

OccupationJob DescriptionSkills RequiredMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (up to 2030)
Rehabilitation CounselorsRehabilitation counselors help individuals with emotional, physical, developmental, or mental disabilities through art therapy.Interpersonal skills, communication skills, organizational skills$38,56011% (faster than the average)
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health CounselorsCounselors for substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health treat patients suffering from anxiety, depression, social and behavioral issues, and addiction.Interpersonal skills, social skills, verbal skills$48,52022% (much faster than average)
Health Education Specialists and Community Health WorkersHealth education specialists teach people the different behaviors that help them gain overall wellness. They help clients design and implement strategies to improve individual and community health.Emotional resilience, active listening skills, teambuilding skills$48,86012% (much faster than average)
PsychologistsPsychologists use art therapy to experiment, interpret, observe and evaluate their clients. They work to better their clients’ cognitive, social, and emotional processes.Empathy, communication skills, flexibility, diligence$81,0406% (as fast as the average)
Recreational TherapistsRecreational therapists help clients rebuild their skills, boost their quality of life, strengthen social connections, improve moods, and restore their well-being. Communication skills, creativity, divergent thinking skills$47,9404% (faster than average)
Social WorkersSocial workers help people prevent and cope with problems encountered in their everyday lives. Art therapists use their skills to assist clients in various settings like child welfare, human service agencies, etc.Interpersonal skills, communication skills, creative thinking skills, organizational skills$50,3909% (faster than average)
Social and Community Service ManagersSocial and community service managers supervise and coordinate organizations and programs that support the well-being of the public. They plan and oversee outreach activities for increased awareness of programs.Analytical skills, verbal skills, interpersonal skills$74,00012% (much faster than average)

Certifications and Licensing for Art
Therapy Ph.D. Online Students

Professional certification proves that a candidate has the relevant experience, skills, and knowledge to perform specific tasks or jobs in which they have been trained. Upon earning an art therapy Ph.D. online, obtaining one or more certifications and licensure is always wise to practice and work as an art therapist. The Art Therapy Credentials Board provides certifications to art therapy practitioners that include:

Registered Art Therapist (ATR)

The Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential ensures that an art therapist has completed advanced specific graduate-level art therapy education and supervised post-graduate art therapy experience.

Registered Art Therapist-Board Certified (ATR-BC)

The ATR-BC is one of the most prestigious art therapy certifications, demonstrating that the professional has knowledge and skills in art therapy. It also ensures that they utilize the most recent advances in art therapy.

In addition to certification, individuals will need to get state-recognized licenses in art therapy based on their location (which state they want to work in). State-regulated agencies in art therapy provide licensure in most states. Here are a few examples:

Additional Resources for Art
Therapy Students

Students pursuing an art therapy Ph.D. online must understand how to use art therapy to support relational and personal treatment goals in various settings, as well as learn about new developments in the field. Joining art and mental health organizations can help them learn how to use multiple art therapies in real-life situations and gain new insights for their research and practice. These organizations provide numerous resources, such as publications, journals, conferences, forums, and so on. Here are a few professional organizations to explore:

American Art Therapy AssociationAmerican Art Therapy has a vision of making professional art therapy accessible to everyone to improve their well-being and mental health. It represents institutions and individuals dedicated to this profession and interested in promoting its growth throughout the country.
Americans for the ArtsAmerican for the Arts is an organization demonstrating how arts can enrich society’s social, educational, and economic fabric. Students can join their network and access many scholarly and professional development opportunities in the art therapy field.
National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies AssociationsThe National Coalition of Creative Art Therapies Associations has creative art therapists under its wings. They collaborate with various organizations and individuals like creative art, music, and poetry therapists to work holistically on topics of common interest.
Art FeedsThe Art Feeds organization focuses on creating art lessons that allow children to express themselves, flourish, and create art-related projects. They have many lesson plans developed by their team in collaboration with creative art therapists, child trauma specialists, and artists.
Mental Health Liaison GroupThe Mental Health Liaison Group is an organization that encourages individuals to advance their federal policies, which support early intervention, recovery services, treatments, etc. The group has partnered with more than 40 affiliated member organizations.

Author Bio:

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.