expressive art therapy masters programs

The Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology with a Concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy is a BBS-approved, part- or full-time low-residency degree program for California residents. The pedagogy provides an engaging online, hybrid curriculum that weaves multimodal expressive arts, such as visual and digital arts, music, dance and movement, poetry, spoken word, and drama, into all courses.

Our program utilizes the strength of the arts as implements for human development and healing, social change, and empowered self-agency. Our emancipatory perspective explores individual, group, couples, and family therapy practices.

The program works on the innovative Scholar-Artist-Practitioner model that focuses on uniting academic knowledge, clinical practice, and community engagement. Throughout the program students engage with peers and faculty in a collaborative, liberation-focused, arts-based environment. We place a premium on co-learning between students and faculty by creating opportunities for rich, playful, and diverse conversations and experiences.

Career Paths

CIIS’ Expressive Arts Therapy program integrates a rigorous education in theories and methods of psychotherapy with intensive training in expressive arts therapy and counseling psychology. 

  • Schools and education-based settings
  • Community mental health, arts, and social justice organizations
  • Hospitals and residential treatment programs
  • Consulting and coaching
  • Private practice

The training for this program meets the educational requirements for California’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) license and California’s Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) license. This program is also designed to meet the educational requirements to become a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist (REAT) with the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA).


Hands-on learning through experiential coursework is emphasized. In the first and second years of study, students have the opportunity to integrate theoretical and expressive arts into practice through volunteering or incorporating these basic principles into their current job/vocation. Third year students engage in a year-long, supervised practicum, gaining direct client work experience. 

Classes are taught online in asynchronous and virtual synchronous formats. Students are expected to attend an in-person, one-week intensive that is held at the start of each fall and spring semester in the San Francisco Bay Area. Students work in clinical practice dyads and small groups to deliver collaborative assignments.

Intensive Arts-Based Seminar   
Students, faculty, and advisors come together in residential seminars to engage in extensive, experiential, and intermodal arts-based learning. Up to a third of the coursework for the semester is completed in person, with the remaining coursework delivered in combined asynchronous, and occasional virtual synchronous learning formats to support clinical skill development.

Ongoing Arts Practice   
Throughout the program, all students commit to ongoing engagement with new or existing arts practices. First semester courses allow students to employ modalities with which they are familiar, and provides exposure to new modalities as well. At the end of the first semester, each student outlines a practice plan that will promote their learning and preparation to become an expressive arts therapist. Plans are flexible and adaptive to respond to a student’s growth and changing needs over their time in the program. Expressive Arts Therapy courses offer frequent opportunities for art-making, response art, and arts-based inquiry through which students can apply their arts practices and experiment with new ones.

Students have the freedom to choose less formal, self-guided practices and/or those involving more structure, including guided training, presentations, publication, performances, and more. All costs and materials involved with a student’s individual arts practice are the sole responsibility of the student.

Personal Therapy Requirement

Students are required to complete 50 hours of personal psychotherapy with a licensed mental health professional (ideally an Expressive or Creative Arts Therapist).

License Ready

The Master’s in Counseling Psychology with a Concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy meets the educational requirements for MFT licensure in the state of California, and LPCC in the state of California with additional optional units. After graduation, students must complete a number of supervised client contact hours and pass the MFT licensing examination before becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist. This process takes, on average, 3 to 5 years post graduation.

Curriculum Highlights

EXA 5501 Psychotherapy Theories & Practice (3 units) This is an introduction to traditional and contemporary theories and practices of psychotherapy. We begin by situating the field in relation to its sociocultural, historical, and Indigenous roots. We go on to examine psychodynamic, Jungian, existential-humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, and collaborative approaches integrating feminist and multicultural perspectives, addressing intersections with the recovery model. Creative arts-based case examples for various approaches are woven into the fabric of the class.

EXA 6020 EXA & Trauma (3 units) This advanced-level class focuses on developing an understanding of what trauma is and how it functions on individual, community, and collective levels. You will critically explore theories and practical responses to the affective, cognitive, behavioral, neurological effects associated with trauma and crisis counseling. You will develop an advanced understanding of DSM definitions of trauma, differential diagnosis, and evidenced-based treatment strategies. You will additionally learn how to explore the ways that expressive arts and somatic psychotherapies can be effective as interventions in helping clients to recover from trauma.

MCPE 5606 & MCPE 6606 Family & Couples Dynamics I & II (3 units) This two-part course surveys a broad range of contemporary theories and practices within the field of family and couples therapy and their application in working with LGBT and heterosexual couple and family constellations across diverse cultures. You will be introduced to major contemporary approaches within the field, including structural, strategic, narrative, solution-focused, symbolic-experiential, EFT, and the Gottman Method. The course includes modules addressing issues related to blended families, interpersonal violence, migration stressors, divorce and separation, addiction, and illness. You will learn how to integrate the use of visual arts, music, movement, drama, and the language arts in family and couples therapy practice.

Cost of Art Therapy Masters

Obtaining a Master’s degree in Art Therapy can be a fulfilling and rewarding endeavor for those passionate about using creative methods to heal and support individuals facing mental health challenges. However, before embarking on this educational journey, it’s important to understand the cost associated with pursuing an Art Therapy Master’s program.

The cost of a Master’s degree in Art Therapy can vary significantly depending on several factors. In this article, we will explore the typical costs associated with Art Therapy Master’s programs, as well as some strategies to help students manage these expenses.

Tuition Fees

Tuition is one of the primary costs associated with pursuing a Master’s degree in Art Therapy. Tuition fees can differ widely depending on the institution and the program’s location. In general, public institutions tend to offer more affordable tuition rates for in-state residents, while private institutions often have higher fees. Tuition fees can range from several thousand dollars to over $40,000 per year, so it’s essential to research and compare programs to find one that aligns with your budget.

Additional Expenses

In addition to tuition, students pursuing an Art Therapy Master’s degree will encounter other expenses. These may include textbooks, art supplies, and various fees related to campus facilities and services. Be sure to consider these additional costs when planning your budget for the program.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

To help alleviate the financial burden of pursuing an Art Therapy Master’s degree, students can explore various financial aid options and scholarships. Many institutions offer scholarships specifically tailored to art therapy students, and there are also external organizations that provide funding opportunities. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an excellent starting point for those looking for financial assistance.

Work-Study and Part-Time Jobs

Another way to manage the cost of an Art Therapy Master’s program is to seek part-time employment or participate in a work-study program. Some universities offer work-study opportunities that allow students to work on-campus, gaining valuable experience while earning money to help cover expenses.

Masters in Expressive Arts Therapy Online

In today’s digital age, online education has become increasingly popular, and this trend extends to the field of Expressive Arts Therapy. Pursuing a Master’s in Expressive Arts Therapy online offers numerous benefits, including flexibility and accessibility.

The Flexibility of Online Programs

Online Master’s programs in Expressive Arts Therapy provide students with the flexibility to study at their own pace. This is particularly advantageous for individuals who are already working or have other commitments. With online programs, students can access lectures, assignments, and resources from anywhere with an internet connection, making it easier to balance education with other aspects of life.

Access to a Variety of Programs

Online education allows students to choose from a wide range of programs, regardless of their geographic location. This means that prospective students are not limited to institutions near them, and they can select the program that best aligns with their academic and career goals.

Online Program Considerations

While online education offers many advantages, there are some essential factors to consider when pursuing a Master’s in Expressive Arts Therapy online. It’s crucial to ensure that the program is accredited and recognized by relevant professional organizations. Additionally, students should have the self-discipline and time management skills necessary to excel in an online learning environment.

Expressive Arts Therapy Masters Programs

Expressive Arts Therapy is a creative and holistic approach to therapy that utilizes various artistic modalities to help individuals explore and address emotional and psychological challenges. Pursuing a Master’s degree in Expressive Arts Therapy opens up numerous career opportunities in the field of mental health and wellness.

Core Components of Expressive Arts Therapy Programs

Master’s programs in Expressive Arts Therapy typically cover a range of core components, including:

  • Artistic Modalities: Students engage with various artistic forms, such as visual arts, music, dance, drama, and poetry, to understand how these modalities can be used in therapy.
  • Psychological Theories: A strong foundation in psychology and counseling is essential to understand the theoretical underpinnings of expressive arts therapy.
  • Clinical Experience: Many programs require students to complete internships or practicums, providing hands-on experience working with clients.
  • Ethical Considerations: Ethical guidelines and boundaries are emphasized to ensure that therapy is provided responsibly and ethically.

Career Opportunities

Graduates of Master’s programs in Expressive Arts Therapy have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and private practices. They can become expressive arts therapists, art therapists, or counselors, helping individuals of all ages to cope with and overcome mental health challenges.

Master’s Degree in Expressive Arts Therapy

A Master’s degree in Expressive Arts Therapy is a valuable and enriching educational path for those passionate about using creativity as a means of healing and personal growth. This specialized degree equips students with the knowledge and skills to facilitate transformative therapeutic experiences for individuals of all ages.

Curriculum Highlights

The curriculum of a Master’s degree in Expressive Arts Therapy typically includes the following key components:

  • Artistic Modalities: Students explore various forms of artistic expression, including visual arts, music, dance, drama, and poetry.
  • Psychological Foundations: Theoretical knowledge in psychology and counseling is integrated to understand the psychological processes involved in art therapy.
  • Clinical Experience: Most programs include clinical internships, enabling students to gain practical experience in therapeutic settings.
  • Ethics and Professional Standards: The importance of ethical practice and adherence to professional standards is emphasized throughout the program.

Preparing for Licensure

In some regions, licensure is required to practice as an expressive arts therapist or art therapist. Therefore, students should check the licensing requirements in their state or country and ensure that their Master’s program aligns with these requirements.

Best Expressive Arts Therapy Programs

Choosing the right Master’s program in Expressive Arts Therapy is crucial for one’s education and future career prospects. The best programs offer a comprehensive curriculum, experienced faculty, and opportunities for practical experience. Here are some of the top programs in the field.

1. Lesley University – Expressive Arts Therapy Program

Lesley University in Massachusetts is renowned for its Expressive Arts Therapy program. This program offers a diverse and experiential curriculum, including coursework in art, dance, drama, and music therapy. Students have the opportunity to engage in practical training through internships and community-based projects.

2. California Institute of Integral Studies – Expressive Arts Therapy Program

The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco offers a Master’s program in Expressive Arts Therapy that integrates spirituality and creativity. The program emphasizes personal growth and self-awareness, preparing students to be both skilled therapists and artists.

3. European Graduate School – Master’s in Expressive Arts Therapy

For those looking for international exposure and a unique approach to expressive arts therapy, the European Graduate School in Switzerland offers a Master’s program. This program combines expressive arts therapy with critical theory and philosophy, encouraging students to explore the deeper dimensions of creative healing.

4. University of Louisville – Expressive Therapies Program

The University of Louisville in Kentucky offers an Expressive Therapies program that includes a Master’s in Art Therapy and a post-master’s Expressive Arts Therapy certificate. This allows students to specialize in their chosen area of study, making it a flexible option for those with specific career goals.

About the author

Study on Scholarship Today -- Check your eligibility for up to 100% scholarship.

Leave a Comment