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Expressive Therapies

Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Art Therapy

Master of Arts (MA), on-campus or low-residency graduate program

Help others explore the therapeutic power of art making.

Drawing from your experience as a visual artist, discover art making’s potential to help others gain self-awareness and understanding. Through our art therapy program, study to promote healing through drawing, painting, sculpting, and other media. Train alongside world-recognized faculty in a national hub for mental health practice and research, and spend 1,150 hours in the field fostering well-being in individuals, families, and communities.

REGISTER: MA in Expressive Therapies Virtual Information Session

At Lesley University, you’ll continue to explore your identity as an artist while developing as an art therapist. You will build the foundational skills and experiences needed to become a licensed mental health counselor. Working within our cross-disciplinary community, build your expertise in the therapeutic applications for art making, while finding opportunities to collaborate with students working in diverse artistic disciplines, from drama to music to writing.

As you train for a career in mental health counseling and art therapy, build an understanding of the science that underlies human behavior. Learn how to address the changing needs of human beings across the lifespan. Research the artistic, physical, cognitive, neurological, and social development of individuals. Infuse this science with creativity and compassion to help others come to a place of wholeness and wellness.

Gain the skills and experiences needed to practice in a range of clinical settings. Master assessment strategies and develop treatment plans for different populations, development levels, and cultures. Tap into our vast network of field training sites throughout Greater Boston and across the U.S.

Graduate prepared for an impactful career in mental health clinics, psychiatric clinics, hospitals, schools, and beyond.

Graduate Program Inquiry Form

Program Structure

3-Year Program, Full-Time; On-Campus or Low-Residency Formats

60 Credits

  • Art Therapy Specialization Mission Statement

    Lesley’s Art Therapy Specialization endeavors to prepare competent entry-level Art Therapists in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains. Specifically, the program aims to prepare its students to become skilled, knowledgeable, compassionate art therapy professionals who are able to work in a diverse world.  Students are trained to use the art media and the creative process to treat emotional and physical illness, and to help people achieve a greater sense of integration, wholeness, and wellness. Towards this end, they maintain their identities as artists, develop fundamental skills as mental health counselors, and integrate these realms into their work as art therapists.   In addition to their proficiency with the visual arts, students also gain familiarity and comfort with other creative arts modalities. The power of art, dance, drama, expressive arts and music give voice to personal meaning from a cultural and critical pedagogical context. The interdisciplinary nature of the arts meets the needs of a wide range of clinical populations in preparing our students for professional growth, lifelong learning and leadership in their communities. Another aim of students’ training is mentoring them to become leaders who can influence both constructive change in society and their profession.  

Program Goals and Learning Statement

Learn more about the expected program goals that our Expressive Therapies master's degree programs meet.

  • Program Goals

    The goal of the Expressive Therapies master’s degree programs is to provide students the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to practice in a range of professional settings, including health care facilities, schools, community agencies, and private practices. The Expressive Therapies 60-credit programs meet the academic and field training requirements for mental health counselor licensure (LMHC) in Massachusetts. (Students intending to work outside of Massachusetts are advised to review their state's regulations to determine their eligibility for licensure.) Specialization tracks prepare graduates for certification or registration by their respective professional associations.  

    The Expressive Therapies faculty established these program goals. Aligned with the mission of Lesley and the Graduate School of Arts & Social Sciences, they are also specific to the Graduate Expressive Therapies Department, with deep consideration of our program’s history and the contemporary landscape of expressive therapies and mental health counseling.

    1. Dual Identity as a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Expressive Therapist 

    Students will demonstrate a dual identity as a clinical mental health counselor and expressive therapist, and an understanding of the ways in which the professions enhance and complement one another. 

    2. Professional Orientation and Ethics 

    Students will demonstrate an understanding of the counseling profession and their modality profession. Students will demonstrate the capacity to provide counseling services within the ethical codes of the counseling profession and their modality specializations, and with an understanding of legal issues. 

    3. Clinical Mental Health Counseling Theory 

    Students will gain substantial knowledge of core counseling theories as applied to individual and group processes, skills, and approaches. 

    4. Human Development Across the Lifespan 

    Students will assess and cultivate an understanding of human growth and development throughout the lifespan, including an understanding of arts-based development, and the connection between developmental theory, clinical issues. Students will be able to design interventions, as well as apply considerations of environmental, biological, and cultural factors. 

    5. Clinical Skills and Helping Relationships 

    Students will demonstrate counseling skills and techniques which exhibit awareness of self and other in the therapeutic relationship. Students will demonstrate the ability to document and evaluate progress towards treatment goals.  

    6. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

    Students will develop a critical multicultural lens of the sociocultural foundations in the counseling and expressive therapy process, including developing an awareness and knowledge of power, privilege, and oppression at the micro, macro, personal, and interpersonal levels. Students will develop strategies to identify and eliminate cultural barriers, prejudice, and discriminatory practices.  

    7. Career Development 

    Students will demonstrate knowledge of vocational counseling theory and apply career development methods to individual professional development. 

    8. Group Process in Counseling and Expressive Therapies 

    Students will develop a theoretical and embodied understanding of group process and dynamics, theory, skill, and approaches. 

    9. Assessment 

    Students will gain knowledge and skills in understanding and utilizing formal assessment instruments and information gathering techniques, used in case conceptualization, treatment planning. Students will also be able to analyze and critique assessment tools regarding ethical usage and multicultural competency.  

    10. Research and Program Evaluation 

    Students will develop the ability to locate, read, critique, and evaluate research to inform clinical practice. Through this activity, students will contribute knowledge to the profession of counseling and their modality specializations. 

    11. Psycho-diagnostics and Treatment 

    Students will gain an understanding of the broad spectrum of psychopathology and diagnostic criteria utilized in the current DSM 5 and ICD 10 to inform ethical clinical practice and evaluation within a diverse context. 

    12. Trauma and Crisis Intervention 

     Students will demonstrate trauma-informed skills within clinical practice, including knowledge of crisis intervention, and risk and suicide assessment. Students will understand current research and application in how the arts are used in trauma-informed practice, including individual, community, cultural, and systemic complex trauma across the lifespan. 

    13. Embodied, Experiential and Creative Clinical Practices 

    Students will be able to articulate, embody, and apply the transformative nature of creativity and the arts intrapersonally, interpersonally, and clinically, demonstrating the integration of knowledge and skills within practice.   

    14. Mental Health and Community Systems 

    Students will demonstrate knowledge and apply skills associated with working in diverse communities and multi-disciplinary teams. Students will critically analyze methods of treatment, referral, and interdisciplinary collaboration from a global health perspective.  

    15. Personal Growth, Insight, and Congruence 

    Students will develop and engage in multifaceted processes which foster self-awareness, and awareness of others’ experiences with cultural sensitivity. Students will develop and begin to articulate and evidence, in their scholarship and clinical practices, their theoretical orientation.   

    Students take courses in a scheduled sequence, where learning takes place in increments that align with their emerging competencies as clinicians. Following the program's course sequence ensures that students build upon knowledge and skills in a manner that maximizes their learning efforts, and that is appropriate and supportive, as they begin to practice in the field. 

Program Accreditation

Lesley's Master of Arts Program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Art Therapy is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (www.caahep.org) upon the recommendation of the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education (ACATE). The program meets the current educational requirements to apply for licensure in clinical mental health counseling in Massachusetts, and also meets the current educational requirements to apply for the Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential with the Art Therapy Credentials Board.

Brown and white square logo featuring the letters CAAHEP and reading "Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs"
art therapy rainbow chalk drawing

On-Campus Option

Become part of a community of artists and scholars in Cambridge while pursuing your degree. Gain in-person access to leaders in the field and benefit from Lesley’s professional network in and around Greater Boston and New England. Taking three to four courses per semester, immerse in rigorous study and complete your program within a three year sequence.

Best if you:

  • Live near Cambridge or are able to relocate
  • Enjoy the rigor of an intensive program and want to take advantage of internships in Greater Boston
  • Want face-to-face time with faculty and peers and to become integrated into campus life
  • Are not planning to work full-time during your studies
close up of hand drawing a mandela

Low-Residency Option

Participate in one 3-week summer residency per year on Lesley University’s Cambridge campus. Between residencies, continue your studies online with Lesley faculty and through supervised field experiences in your community. Your courses correspond with those of our on-campus program, and will be completed within three years.

Best if you:

  • Live at a distance
  • Enjoy the flexibility of online learning
  • Want to take fewer courses at a time
  • Would like to complete internships/research in your community

Lesley is not currently enrolling low-residency students who reside in Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, or Wisconsin. 

Field Training
Where Our Students Intern
Our field training experts will help you find an internship that will enhance your practice and further your career goals.
Licensure Information

Depending on your professional goals, where you reside or plan to practice, and the licensure requirements within that state, there are different pathways toward licensure or credentialing that may be relevant. In accordance with Lesley University’s institutional participation in SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) and with federal regulations, we strongly encourage prospective applicants who intend to pursue licensure in a state other than Massachusetts to visit the Lesley University Licensure and Credentialing webpage and review the “Licensure Information for Students and Applicants” document for their specific program.

Samantha Sundermeyer '14 with a sheep at Cultivate Care Farm
Art Therapy

Samantha Sundermeyer ’14

Art Therapy graduate Samantha Sundermeyer explores a new path to healing at Cultivate Care Farm, a seven-acre therapeutic farm designed to treat children, teens and adults struggling with an array of emotional, developmental, and psychological challenges.

Souhad Chbeir working in her studio
Art Therapy

Souhad Chbeir ’18

As a native of Lebanon, it was seeing the plight of Syrian refugees that drove Souhad to explore the social implications for the expressive arts. Now she’s seeking to transform her art therapy degree into a career empowering children who have experienced the trauma of war. “My first residency experience was nurturing, friendly, and inspiring. The energy of the group set me free. I have never felt this way in my career," says Souhad.


Have questions about the expressive therapies master's program? View our frequently asked questions to find your answer.

  • Expressive Therapies FAQs

    When does the program start? 

    The master’s program in expressive therapies only has one start term per year, which is summer. On-campus students have an online orientation course in July, with on-campus courses beginning in the fall. Low-residency students have an online orientation course in July followed by a 2-3 week on-campus residency, with online courses in the fall and spring. 

    Do you offer the program online? 

    Through the low-residency format, students attend an in-person summer residency each July on Lesley’s campus. In the fall and spring semesters, students continue their studies online with a mix of asynchronous and synchronous coursework. Field work is completed in their home community. The completion time for this model is 3 years (20 credits each year with 2-3 courses per semester). Internships take place in years 2 and 3, alongside coursework in the fall and spring semesters.  

    Are the online courses in the low-residency program asynchronous or synchronous? 

    Students in the low-residency program attend the on-campus residency each July. During the fall and spring semesters, students take their coursework online with a mix of asynchronous and synchronous learning.  

    How do students in the low-residency programs stay connected as a learning community? 

    During the 3-year program, students in the low-residency model come to campus each July for their residency. During this time, students and faculty make very strong connections that are fostered throughout the program. When learning online, students participate in both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Lesley’s Online Learning Platform also offers interactive tools that can be used for courses beyond just posting comments to a discussion board. You can use a collaborative tool to work on group projects, work with your class to find a time that works for everyone to video in to connect, instant message with faculty or peers, upload PowerPoint presentations and record yourself over the presentation as if you were giving it in person and faculty and peers can provide feedback. Faculty make the online work as engaging as possible and the in-person residency period is very hands-on and experiential! Students stay connected through email, phone, Zoom and social media as well! 

    How is the on-campus model formatted? 

    Our on-campus model has courses during the daytime, on weekdays, or in an intensive format as well (either a weekend-intensive course or a five-day intensive course). The completion time for this model is 3 years (20 credits each year with 3 courses per semester). Internships take place in years 2 and 3 alongside coursework in the fall and spring semesters. 

    Can I continue to work full-time while in the program? 

    We don’t typically recommend that students work full time while in the program. Our on-campus courses take place during the daytime as well as nights and weekends, and daytime courses cannot be avoided.  Please keep in mind that there are synchronous components to the low-residency model’s online coursework. Your place of employment would need to be flexible should you be required to attend your synchronous online course during regular business hours. 

    In the low residency model, it may be possible to work full-time for the first year of the program, as long as you can take the required weeks off in July for residency. If you can find an internship site in your second year of the program that has nights and weekend hours, you may be able to complete the 15 hours/week that are needed and still work full time and come for residency in July.  The third year of the program, however, requires about 25 hours/week at your site, making it impossible to work full time, complete your coursework, and fulfill those hours.    

    How do I submit my portfolio? 

    Portfolios should be submitted on Slideroom. Learn more about the portfolio requirements and how to set up an account with Slideroom.

    If my GPA does not meet the preferred requirement of a 3.0 or higher, can I still apply? 

    The program prefers that applicants have a GPA of a 3.0 or higher, however applicants with a lower GPA may still be reviewed. If you have a lower GPA and are concerned about it impacting your admissions decision, we recommend addressing this in your Written Personal Statement. You can address anything that may have affected your grades, or you can address why you believe you are prepared at this time to be successful in a graduate program. 

    How do I select a writing sample? 

    The Academic Writing Sample can be a previously written research-based paper from a college-level course. It should show your ability to think critically, synthesize information, and write at the academic level. Your submission can be on any topic and must be between 3 and 5 pages in length (double-spaced). If you have written a longer paper, you can submit an excerpt of 3-5 chronological pages (it is okay if the submission is out of context). If you do not have a paper from your previous studies, or if you graduated from college several years ago, you may choose to write a 3-5 page paper on a topic of interest. Please choose your best writing to submit for review.  

    If admitted into the program, can I defer? 

    If unexpected circumstances are preventing you from starting your Lesley graduate program in the term you were admitted, you may request to defer your enrollment for up to 1 year. You will be required to submit an enrollment deposit and deferral request form to hold your spot. Learn more about the deferral process.

    I am interested in more than one art modality. Can I apply to multiple programs?  

    Although you can’t apply to more than one specialization, a unique aspect of our program is that you still get exposure to each of the art forms. Meaning, if you chose to pursue Drama Therapy, some of your core courses would still train you in the other expressive therapies in a therapeutic setting. This helps you down the road when you may be working with a client who may not respond to one specific modality. Theory and practice are interwoven into this program’s curriculum.  

    Which prerequisites do I need in order to apply?

    Art Therapy Program

    Completed coursework in:

    Psychology (12 credits, including abnormal psychology and developmental
    psychology, with grades of B or better). Studio Art (18 credits, with grades of B or better). Not all coursework must be complete before you apply. Contact Graduate Admissions for details.

    Dance Therapy Program

    6 credits of completed coursework in psychology with grades of B or better and Anatomy and Kinesiology with a grade of B or higher. Not all coursework must be complete before you apply. Contact Graduate Admissions for details.

    Drama Therapy Program

    6 credits of completed coursework in psychology with grades of B or better. Not all coursework must be complete before you apply. Contact Graduate Admissions for details.

    Expressive Arts Therapy Program

    3 credits of completed coursework in abnormal psychology and 3 credits of completed coursework in developmental psychology with grades of B or better. Not all coursework must be complete before you apply. Contact Graduate Admissions for details.

    Music Therapy Program

    6 credits of completed coursework in psychology with grades of B or better.

    Principles and Practices of Music Therapy (3 credits) or a music therapy course that includes the history and survey of the profession, its theoretical approaches, and its application to various populations.

    Not all coursework must be complete before you apply. Contact Graduate Admissions for details.

    How can I gain experience in the field of human services and learn more about Expressive Therapies? 

    Prospective students can gain human service experience by pursuing community resources through volunteering and observation. This will greatly strengthen an application when ultimately applying to the program. Below are some resources for prospective students to explore: 



    Students may also learn about what types of work Expressive Therapists are doing in the field by exploring the resources below: 
    Art Therapy: American Art Therapy Association (AATA) 
    Expressive Arts Therapy: International Expressive Arts Therapy (IEATA) 
    Dance/Movement Therapy: American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) 
    Drama Therapy: North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) 
    Music Therapy: American Music Therapy: American Music Therapy Association (AMTA)   

    Voices – An online journal that looks at social justice through the use of Music Therapy.  

    Jessica Kingsley Publishers – A publishing company that houses reading material for all creative arts therapies. 

    Barcelona Publishers – A publishing company “dedicated entirely to the field of music therapy” with the goal of expanding and moving the field forward.  

    How can I schedule an appointment to learn more? 

    Please click on the links below to schedule a time to meet with admissions or visit our campus.

    Schedule an Appointment with a Graduate Admissions Counselor

    Attend an Information Session or Campus Tour

Counselors, therapists, and other mental health practitioners were trained at Lesley University in the last 5 years, making us the largest provider of training for licensed mental health counselors in New England.
Massachusetts is the best state in the nation for mental health care according to Mental Health America, with excellent access to care for both youth and adults.
Careers in mental health counseling are expanding, with projections for a 22% increase in job openings from 2018 to 2028. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Jobs You Could Have
The field of mental health counseling is expanding rapidly, making this an exciting time to pursue graduate study. Common job titles for people with master's degrees in art therapy include:
Where Graduates Work
Massachusetts and Greater Boston have a large concentration of medical, healthcare, and mental health-related organizations. Graduates find careers in a range of places, including:


Total approximate cost for this master's degree program.
Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Art Therapy
  • Tuition
    $1,190/credit x 60
  • Fees
    Field Experience Fees
    Materials Fees
    Registration Fees
    MAP Tevera Fee
    Activity Fees
    Practicum Fees
    Degree Completion Fee
  • Total
Estimated Cost

All graduate students are reviewed for merit scholarships through the admissions process and are awarded at the time of acceptance. Other forms of financial aid are also available. Review all graduate tuition and fees, and what they cover. Tuition and fees are subject to change each year, effective June 1.

  • Tuition
    $1,190/credit x 60
  • Fees
    Field Experience Fees
    Registration Fees
    Materials Fees
    Mental Health Field Placement and Licensure Software Subscription
    Practicum Fees
    Degree Completion Fee
  • Total
Estimated Cost

All graduate students are reviewed for merit scholarships through the admissions process and are awarded at the time of acceptance. Other forms of financial aid are also available. Review all graduate tuition and fees, and what they cover. Tuition and fees are subject to change each year, effective June 1.

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Total approximate cost for this master's degree program. Tuition and fees are for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Use our step-by-step guide to apply for federal and university funding. Scholarships, grants, Work-Study, and loans. It’s all right here.

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