2017-2018 Graduate Academic Catalog

Division of Expressive Therapies

Lesley's Expressive Therapies program trains students who engage in the healing process by working through the arts. Expressive therapists integrate the modalities of dance, drama, literature, music, poetry, and the visual arts with the practices of psychotherapy and clinical mental health counseling. The program offers the Master's degree with specializations in Art, Dance, Expressive Arts Therapy, Music Therapy, Drama Therapy, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Expressive Therapies, a Graduate Certificate in Expressive Therapies for Mental Health Professionals, as well as a Ph.D. in Expressive Therapies.

More than forty years ago, when the Expressive Therapies program was established, Lesley was a pioneer, the first graduate school in the United States to train professionals in this emerging, highly creative field. Today, the program, the largest of its kind in the world, continues to stand at the forefront in expressive therapies training. Its vanguard reputation and outstanding faculty, all of whom are practitioners in the arts, attract students from around the world. Its distinct focus on training students to use all the modalities of art in their practice remains as unique today as it was three decades ago.

The success and growth of Lesley's Expressive Therapies program has been attributed to the combination of experiential and creative learning with applied clinical practice and continued artistic work. Students are encouraged to develop their identities as artists and facilitators of the creative process as well as their skills in mental health counseling. The Expressive Therapies program perceives all learning as a process of transformation.

The Expressive Therapies program is based on the following curriculum objectives and training assumptions:

  • Work in the arts and enhancement of creative expression is an essential part of the healing process.
  • Basic knowledge in counseling and psychology-human development, psychopathology, and psychological theories - is fundamental to all training in expressive therapies
  • Applied clinical practice is important to training in the expressive arts; therefore, two years of fieldwork are required to meet credentialing and licensure requirements. 
  • Students in training continue to develop as artists and performers.
  • Participation in a learning community is important to understanding group dynamics and systems.
  • Exposure to a variety of the arts is necessary for all expressive therapists.
  • While specialization in one art form-visual arts, dance, music, psychodrama/drama or intermodal arts-is offered, any specialization is in addition to one's core development as an expressive therapist.

On-Campus and Low-Residency Learning Models

The Art, Dance, Music, and Expressive Arts Therapy specializations are offered in both an on-campus and low-residency learning model. On-campus and low-residency students follow the same program of study for their degree specialization. Students accepted into a low-residency program attend a three-week intensive residency on Lesley's Cambridge campus each year during the summer, during which they engage in face-to-face classroom time, meet with faculty advisors, and network with their peers. During the traditional academic school year, students continue their studies online, and complete clinical internships in their home communities. This format allows for the best of community inspiration and individual attention.

Student Body

Expressive Therapies students are women and men typically ranging in age from 22 to 65, with a segment of international students. Students bring a stimulating mix of personal, academic, and career backgrounds to the program. A large number have had formal training and professional experience as artists. Some have already received advanced degrees in related fields. Others have less professional background in the arts, but nevertheless share the creativity, energy, and strong commitment to helping people that are common bonds among expressive therapies students. Students who enroll directly from undergraduate school generally have had clinical experience as part of their undergraduate academic requirements.

Field Experience

Clinical fieldwork is emphasized throughout the Expressive Therapies program and is overseen by the Field Training Office in Expressive Therapies. The Field Training Office works closely with students, placement sites and instructors to facilitate the student's learning experience. There is a database of approved field training sites which include such placements as psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, adult day-treatment programs, geriatric centers, and schools, as well as clinics that provide treatment for specialized populations such as families and substance abusers. In addition to being supervised by expressive therapists, students generally work with multidisciplinary teams and receive supervision from licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, and other mental health professionals. A small seminar class accompanies all field training experiences to provide additional supervision and support for students while in field training. In the first year of placement, students complete 450-500 hours at internship, with a minimum of 15 hours per week at the site. After completion of the first year, students engage in a minimum 700-hour clinically supervised second-year internship with a minimum of 20 hours per week in the field.

Orientation to Expressive Therapies

Orientation to Expressive Therapies is the first required core course. The orientation is a time when all members of the Expressive Therapies community, both students and faculty, come together to foster connection and to begin exploring the arts as a vehicle for self-expression and transformation.

This course marks the beginning of core studies. During the orientation, students begin to meet in core groups and become oriented to each other as well as to members of the faculty. At this time, students continue to develop their academic course of study and finalize plans for field placements.

Licensure, Credentialing, and Accreditation

The Expressive Therapies 60-credit programs are designed to meet the pre-master's academic and field training requirements for mental health counselor licensure in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Candidates who wish to seek licensure in other states as mental health practitioners should review state regulations to determine eligibility. The Art Therapy specialization is approved by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). The specialization in Music Therapy is approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), with graduates being eligible for certification as music therapists.The Dance Therapy specialization is approved by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA). Expressive Therapies students are also meet pre-master's educational requirements for registration as Registered Expressive Arts Therapists (REAT) through the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA).  The Drama Therapy specialization is approved by the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA), and meets the educational requirements for the Registered Drama Therapist (RTD) credential.