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Karen Estrella

Professor, Expressive Arts Therapy

faculty Karen Estrella

Dr. Karen Estrella, LMHC, REAT, MT-BC, ATR-BC, is a professor in the Department of Graduate Expressive Therapies at Lesley University. As a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist (REAT), Karen's work focuses on developing expressive arts therapy theory and practice. Her work includes an integrated arts approach to counseling and psychotherapy, and she has spent much of the past 20 years developing competencies and integrating theory in Expressive Arts Therapy.

In addition to being a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist, Karen is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an active music therapist and art therapist, practicing community-based mental health counseling.

In addition to Expressive Arts Therapy as a unique specialization and discipline, Karen's research interests include issues of professional development and cultural identity for Counselors and Expressive Therapists. Karen has an interest in training, clinical practice, and supervision of Expressive Therapies; multicultural approaches to Expressive Therapies; arts-based and narrative research; psychodynamic psychotherapy and supervision and its applications to Expressive Therapies; and social action and activism through the arts, particularly when integrated with therapeutic practice.


Selected Publications

Estrella, K. (2022). Commentary: Troubling care. The arts in psychotherapy. 80.  

Estrella, K. (2022). The integrative process of expressive arts therapy. In. C. Malchiodi (Ed.), Handbook of expressive arts therapy (pp. 81-97). Guilford Press.  

Estrella, K. (2018, June 16). Expressive arts therapy and mestiza consciousness: Practicing in a “wild zone.” [Blog Post].

Estrella, K. (2017). Music therapy with Hispanic/Latino clients. In A. Whitehead-Pleaux & X. Tan (Eds.),Cultural intersections in music therapy: Music, health, and the person (pp. 35-50). Dallas, TX: Barcelona Publishers.

Estrella, K. (2014). The floors of the Met. In C. Collins, J. Ladd, M. Seider, & F. Yeskel (Eds.), Class lives: Stories from across our economic divide (pp. 67-71). Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press. (Reprinted in the UTNE reader online. Retrieved from

Estrella, K. (2011). Social activism within expressive arts “therapy”: What’s in a name? In E. G. Levine & S. K. Levine (Eds.), Art in action: Expressive arts therapy and social change (pp. 47-61). Philadelphia and London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Estrella, K. (2007). Awakening the imaginal.  Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism, and Practice, 12. Retrieved from

Conference presentations

Estrella, K. (2022, January). Beg, borrow and steal - Where do the arts in expressive arts therapy come from? Workshop presented at the 14th International Expressive Arts Therapy Association Conference: Rejuvenation! Online.   

Vital, L. M., Chang, M., Chhabra, M., Estrella, K., Li, P., Malebranche, D., Napoli, M., Saleem, R., & Walker, S. (2020, November). Women of Color navigating Space in PWIs. Panel presented at Northeastern University Women of Color in the Academy, Virtual Conference, Boston, MA. 

Sajnani, N., Awais, Y., Estrella, K., Kawano, T. & Swami, S. (2018, September). Decentering arts therapies curricula: Questioning authorship in arts therapies training, supervision, and research.  Panel presented at the Critical Pedagogy in Creative Arts Therapies Symposium: Restoring and Re-storying the disciplines. SAIC, Chicago, IL.

Estrella, K. (2018, April). Postcards from the self: Developing arts-based experientials for all ages.Workshop presented at the Creativity and the Arts in Healing, Expressive Therapies Summit in LA, CA.

Estrella, K., Leone, L., & Napoli, M. (2017, November). Mindful: Exploring mental health through art – a panel discussion and workshop. Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA. (Invited panel moderator and workshop facilitator)

Stephenson, R. C. & Estrella, K. (2017, September). Seeing a song, hearing a painting: Interconnection of rhythm and imagery in music and art therapy. Workshop presented at Tallinn University, Estonia. (Invited workshop presenter)

Sajnani, N., Zarate, R., Beardall, N., Stephenson, R. C., Estrella, K., & Socha, D. (2017, September). Navigating the transition to online education in the arts therapies.  Panel/Workshop presented at the 14thbiennial conference of the European Consortium for Arts Therapy Education (ECArTE): Traditions in transition: New articulations in the arts therapies, Krakow, Poland.


  • PhD Clinical Psychology, Fielding Graduate Institute
  • MA in Expressive Therapies from Lesley University
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)