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Exploring Creativity’s Role in Promoting Health and Well-Being

Personal expression through creativity and the arts has been proven to positively impact the body, mind, and spirit during healing and recovery.

At the Institute for Arts and Health, we’re fostering new thinking and original research that examines the arts’ role in health, well-being, and quality of care for individuals, families, and caregivers. Through education and advocacy, we’re working to push healthcare institutions to incorporate the arts into patient care. Influence arts funding and access across health, education, and community settings. And bring increased awareness to the arts’ ability to advance public health and empower social change.

teacher doing art and crafts with a student

Arts & Health Graduate Certificate Program

Through our 15-credit certificate program, discover how to integrate the healing power of creative expression into patient care across settings. You’ll develop a range of treatment-focused skills that open new possibilities in healthcare, education, human services, social work, counseling, and more.

Examining New Applications for the Arts

Today, the arts are finding new applications in educational, medical, and community programs.

In addition to mental health services, the arts are now being used to treat and educate communities about risk, prevention, and care for wide-ranging public health, environmental, and medical issues. They’re also used as a tool to help active duty military, veterans, families, and caregivers address health issues stemming from service.

At the Institute for Arts and Health, we’re investigating the arts’ ability to:

  • Enhance the patient experience
  • Reduce stress and pain
  • Increase caregiver job satisfaction
  • Improve long-term and elder care
  • Lower healthcare costs
  • Advance social justice
  • Promote wellness and prevention
  • Increase visibility in the areas of trauma, neurology, and health psychology

Advisory Board

  • Co-Director: Vivien Marcow Speiser, PhD, BC-DMT, LMHC, NCC
    headshot of speiser with a big smile on her face

    Professor Emerita, The Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, Lesley University

    Vivien Marcow Speiser is a Professor and the Co-Director of the Institute for Arts and Health. Her work has allowed her unparalleled access to working with groups across the United States, Israel and internationally. She has used the arts as a way of communicating across borders and across cultures and believes in the power of the arts to create the conditions for personal and social change and transformation. As former founder and director of the Arts Institute Project in Israel, she has been influential in the development of Expressive Arts Therapy in that country. Her current interests are in cross-cultural conflict resolution through the arts and in the discipline of authentic movement. She is a co-editor of The Arts, Education and Social Change: Little Signs of Hope, published by Peter Lang.

  • Co-Director: Mitchell Kossak, PhD, LMHC, REAT
    Faculty Mitchell Kossak

     Professor, Expressive Arts Therapy Coordinator, Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, Lesley University.

    Mitchell Kossak is the former division director for Expressive Therapies. He has also been the international coordinator for the Expressive Therapies program in Israel since 1999. He has worked as an expressive arts therapist since 1983 and has been a licensed clinical counselor since 1994. His clinical work combines expressive arts therapies with body centered approaches with a variety of populations. In addition, he has worked extensively with autistic children and adults. He has written about and presented his research on rhythmic attunement, improvisation, psychospiritual and community based approaches to working with trauma and embodied states of consciousness at conferences nationally and internationally. He is the Executive Co-Chair for the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA) and the Associate Editor of The Journal of Applied Arts and Health. He is also a professional jazz musician, performing for the past 35 years in the Boston area.


  • Pat Allen, PhD, ATR Art therapist and author
    Faculty Allen

    Pat B. Allen is an author, artist, art therapist, and teacher who connects to the Creative Source through art, writing, and working in her garden. Her two books, Art Is a Way of Knowing (Shambhala 1995) and Art Is a Spiritual Path (Shambhala 2005), explore the borders between art, psychology, spirituality, and social action. Pat divides her time between Chicago and Ojai, California where she has become an ardent student of the landscape, a volunteer on a local organic farm and a Master Gardener. She is experimenting with art and nature as a water activist and a home scale permaculturist. She blogs about her art and nature experiences at: studiopardes.blogspot.com and earthbound-ojai.blogspot.com.

  • Debra Kalmanowitz, MA, RATh
    Faculty Kalmanowitz

    Art therapist and author

    Debra Kalmanowitz is a Registered Art Therapist (UK), a Research Postgraduate in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration, and an Honorary Clinical Associate at the Centre on Behavioral Health University of Hong Kong. She has worked extensively in the context of trauma, political violence, and social change. Debra is the co-author of The Portable Studio: Art Therapy and Political Conflict, Initiatives in Former Yugoslavia and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and the editor of Art Therapy and Political Violence: With Art, Without Illusion and Art Therapy in Asia: To the Bone or Wrapped in Silk.


  • Ross Prior, PhD
    Faculty Prior

    Teacher, Academic, Performer, Producer, Director

    Ross Prior is the founding Principal Editor of the international Journal of Applied Arts and Health. He was a previous Reader and Principal Lecturer at The University of Northampton, United Kingdom. He has held a range of posts both within the profession and education, having taught at all levels of education for many years. In 2007, he was awarded the distinguished "Teaching Fellow of The University" for excellence in teaching. Dr. Prior was a key figure in the establishment of the first Arts and Health conference at The University of Northampton in 2007, "Inspiring Transformations: Applied Arts and Health Conference" in 2009 and "Colour My Well-being: Applied Arts and Health Conference 2012". He has been closely involved with professional actor training (his 2012 book Teaching Actors: Knowledge Transfer in Actor Training) and also the Drama in Education and Applied Theatre movements for much of his life, as a teacher, researcher and practitioner. In addition to Advisory Board membership of IAH (Lesley University), Dr Prior is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and is an International Advisory Board member for the AHRC funded International Health Humanities Network.

  • Nisha Sajnani
    Faculty Sajnani

    Dr. Nisha Sajnani is an Associate Professor and Director of the Drama Therapy Program at New York University and is a Registered Drama Therapies (RDT) and Board Certified Trainer (BCT)..

    Dr. Sajnani's research interests include the use of improvisation and performance in qualitative research, drama therapy and applied theater with displaced and exploited persons, the politics of therapy, education, and performance, audience reception, and the relationship between feminist psychology and embodied practices in the treatment of internalized and systemic trauma and oppression.


    Nisha Sajnani is a past- president of the North American Drama Therapy Association (www.nadta.org) and founder of the Theater Beyond Borders initiative. Dr. Sajnani is on the editorial board for the Arts in Psychotherapy and the editor-in-chief for Drama Therapy Review, the journal of the North American Drama Therapy Association.

  • Naj Wikoff
    Faculty Wikoff

    Founder and President of the Creative Healing Connections, President Emeritus of the Society for Arts in Healthcare

    Naj Wikoff is the Founder and President of the Creative Healing Connections, which organizes arts and healing retreats for women living with cancer and other chronic diseases, veterans of war, and other special populations, and the Arts Coordinator for Connecting Youth and Community, a community coalition that’s mission is to reduce the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs by teens. Wikoff is the former Director of the Healing and the Arts Project, C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth College, and a past President of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare. Recently, Wikoff served as a Fulbright Scholar at the East Siberian Academy of Culture, Ulan Ude, Russia. Wikoff has served as Director of Programming of the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth, Director of Arts & Productions at the Cathedral St. John the Divine, Coordinator of the Arts for the Global Forum of Parliamentary and Spiritual Leaders, Vice-Chairman of the National Fine Arts Committee for the XIII Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, and Executive Director of the Dutchess County Arts Council. Wikoff is the author of the Americans for the Arts monographs Cultures of Care, The Arts in Times of Trauma and Arts in Medicine: Linking Culture to Care; Taking Care Starts in Medical School for Medscape; Art in Hospitals for State magazine; and Bringing the Arts Back into Healthcare for Russia Today, amongst others.

  • Lisa M. Wong, MD
    Faculty Wong

    President of Longwood Symphony Orchestra

    Lisa Wong is a pediatrician, musician, and author dedicated to the healing arts of music and medicine. She has been a pediatrician at Milton Pediatric Associates for the past 25 years and is also a clinical instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In April 2012, she published her first book, Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine. Dr. Wong is President of Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a Boston-based orchestra devoted to Healing the Community through Music. In the spirit of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, LSO launched its “Healing Art of Music” program in 1991, which incorporates service into every one of its performances. Each concert raises awareness and funds around important public health and medical issues and supports medical nonprofits in the community. In addition to her work with music and medicine, Dr. Wong is deeply devoted to music education, and was a former board member of Young Audiences of Massachusetts. She also has a deep interest in Venezuela's El Sistema program. In 2009, Dr. Wong was appointed to the Board of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state-agency, in 2009. She is married to violinist Lynn Chang, and has two grown children who are also musicians.


  • Shaun McNiff
    Faculty McNiff

    Shaun McNiff, Professor Emeritus, teaches and lectures on the arts and healing, creativity practice, leadership, and art-based research. An exhibiting painter whose art assimilates different elements of his lifework, McNiff is also the author of many books including Trust the Process, Art as Medicine, Art Heals, Art-Based Research, Depth Psychology of Art, and Integrating the Arts in Therapy. His writings have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German, and other languages. In 1974, McNiff established Lesley's Integrated Art in Education and Expressive Therapies graduate programs, both emphasizing relationships amongst the arts and other areas of professional practice. Honors and awards include the Honorary Life Member Award of the American Art Therapy Association and citations from the Massachusetts House of Representative and Senate for founding the Expressive Arts Therapy profession. McNiff left Lesley in 1995 to serve as Provost and Dean of Endicott College and returned in 2002 as the first University Professor.

  • Raquel Stephenson

    Dr. Raquel Stephenson is a professor and board certified, registered art therapist (ATR-BC) and a licensed creative arts therapist (LCAT). She joined Lesley in 2013 as a core faculty member of the Graduate Department of Expressive Therapies, in the Art Therapy Program. Prior to joining Lesley, Dr. Stephenson was a 2010/2011 Fulbright Scholar to Estonia, where she taught at in the Department of Applied Creativity at Tallinn University and continues to teach periodically as a visiting guest lecturer. Dr. Stephenson teaches in New York University’s graduate art therapy program and has taught at School of Visual Arts in the graduate art therapy program. Committed to improving the lives of older adults through the arts, Dr. Stephenson’s clinical work and research has focused on a wide spectrum of older populations. She was the founder, clinical supervisor and program director of New York University’s Creative Aging Therapeutic Services - a community-based program that provided art therapy to well older adults and those with dementia. She also worked on the geriatric psychiatry unit at St. Luke’s hospital in New York City, and with programs for individuals with HIV/AIDS. She presents her work on the intersection of arts and aging and consults with emerging clinical art therapy programs nationally and internationally, and recently designed and implemented the first creative arts therapy program for older adults with dementia in Estonia. Dr. Stephenson serves on the advisory councils of Arts for the Aging in Rockville, MD, and the Art Therapy Outreach Center in New York City. She also serves on the review panel of the International Journal of Creativity and Human Development, located in Scotland. Dr. Stephenson is involved with the American Art Therapy Association, and is currently serving on the Educational Program Review Board.

  • Becky Zarate
    Faculty Rebecca Zarate

    Dr.  Becky Zarate is an Associate Professor of Music Therapy in the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences.

    Dr Zarate  is past co-chair of the European chapter of IATA, and founding committee member of the Expressive Therapies Summit, NYC. She is from Cornwall, UK, and has worked internationally, spending a significant part of her career serving the South Bronx community, NYC. She is coordinator of the Expressive Therapies Research Centre at Lesley. Dr. Zarate has published and presented on cultural humility and the arts therapies, trauma - informed music therapy methods, quantitative research on music therapy and anxiety, and the social architecture of anxiety. She has served on several boards, including executive board for Project Hip-Hop, Boston, AMTA program approval committee, the editorial board of the Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism, and Practice, and serves as clinical research director of Butterly Music Trans* Chorus and its Women's Rights Chorus.