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Creative Arts Therapies Department

Innovative Courses Taught By Field Leaders

Internationally recognized faculty train culturally aware and culturally sensitive therapists dedicated to serving a diverse client base.

Creative Arts Therapies Department

Innovative Courses Taught By Field Leaders

Internationally recognized faculty train culturally aware and culturally sensitive therapists dedicated to serving a diverse client base.

Creative Arts Therapies Department

Innovative Courses Taught By Field Leaders

Internationally recognized faculty train culturally aware and culturally sensitive therapists dedicated to serving a diverse client base.

Creative Arts Therapies Department

The Department of Creative Arts Therapies provides students with the most comprehensive and the highest-quality education in their respective creative arts therapy discipline.

Through an integrated blend of classroom, experiential and practical learning in the field, students learn side-by-side with future colleagues in the other creative arts therapy specialties.

Program courses are taught by faculty that are national leaders in their respective fields. Students take advantage of Philadelphia’s lively arts community, which nourishes the artist, dancer and musician within and enables you to continue practicing your art form while pursuing graduate study.

The Department and Diversity

As a community of learners, Drexel’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies is committed to cultivating a diverse and dynamic student population. We are interested in, and enriched by, diversity, including but not limited to: culture, race, ethnicity, gender identification and expression, socio-economic class, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, learning styles, and political perspectives. We value these identities, shaped by experience, which support empathetic understanding and enlivened critical thinking in and outside of the classroom and in field placements.

Here in this community, we are aware of our past and present shortcomings and deficiencies. We understand that our programs, like the society in which we live, have too long habitually failed to provide just and plentiful opportunities and resources to all people, a perpetual misstep that has resulted in recurrent exclusion for some and disproportionate inclusion for others. We strive for an expansion of diversity. We recognize, embrace and proclaim that it is only by welcoming all people that we may reach our full, and true, potential as an educational community.


The Department of Creative Arts Therapies offers three Master of Arts degrees: Art Therapy and Counseling, Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling, and Music Therapy and Counseling. The 90 quarter-credit curricula can be completed in two years on a full-time basis. We encourage full-time enrollment, yet part-time study can be arranged.

We also offer a PhD in Creative Arts Therapies, an innovative and unique research degree for art therapists, dance/movement therapists, and music therapists who are interested in focusing their careers on scholarly pursuits and academic leadership in their specific discipline.

Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling
Engage in art therapy at a prestigious health center aligned to a school of fine arts.

Master of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy Counseling
Integrate dance and movement into a whole-body approach to mental health.

Master of Arts in Music Therapy and Counseling
Study in the only music therapy program housed within an academic health center.

PhD in Creative Arts Therapies
Earn your PhD in a culture of creativity, innovation, initiative, and support.

Creative Arts Therapies Faculty

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News & Events



Drexel art therapy professors are analyzing masks created through a program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that uses art therapy to treat service members with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

By Frank Otto

In military circles, the feeling of community is important and a strength soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen can draw upon.

Girija Kaimal, EdD, an art therapist and assistant professor in Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, has noticed that the military sense of community carries over into recovery.

Since the end of the summer, Kaimal has been working on a collaborative research study on paper-mâché masks created by active duty service members who have returned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The masks are part of an art therapy program for service members who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disordered. 

Run by Melissa Walker, an art therapist and healing arts coordinator with the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the program encourages service members to make multiple pieces of art. The masks, which represent their feelings about their experiences and identity in the military, are designed upon entry into the four-week integrative treatment program.

“For some service members in the program, the masks become a ‘visual community,’” Kaimal said. “They see the masks and say, ‘I’m not alone.’”

Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions has partnered with the program to analyze the artwork and narrative descriptions on what the artwork represents to the service members — starting with the masks — so that future therapy efforts can be better informed of the unseen inner lives of service members with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. 

They’re also studying how the themes in the masks relate to other clinical symptoms to see if the visual representations relate to any recurring demographic or clinical features.

Participants in the study paint, add clay or cut the masks’ paper-mâché base to visually represent feelings about their military service.

“What this gives us is a chance to understand the military experience from the service member’s perspective,” Kaimal said.

Walker runs the clinical end of the program, working with the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen at the hospital. But she approached Drexel to collaborate on analyzing the masks for common themes in 2013. This summer, the funding was secured through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) through the NEA Military Healing Arts partnership and the study commenced.

Since the program began, close to 1,000 masks have been created. Four hundred of those are being analyzed by Kaimal. She’s been assisted by Adele Gonzaga, a research coordinator, and graduate students Kate Myers-Coffman and Bronwen Landless.

Analysis shows the masks cover a range of emotions and perspectives that represent both sources of strength and the struggles of living with PTSD, traumatic brain disorders and co-occurring mood disorders.

Many show pain, using visible cuts and shrapnel molded onto the mask, while a few actually have needles coming out of them, resembling the villain Pinhead from the movie “Hellraiser.” Others show bloodshot eyes that indicate sleeplessness, hypervigilance and anxiety. Some appear to be like hollow skulls.

A significant portion of the masks are depicted as being split into halves, depicting dualities and opposing aspects of self, often with one side showing an unaffected human face or patriotic imagery and the other side depicting gruesome injuries or tears.

“These are what Walker refers to as the ‘invisible wounds of war,’” Kaimal said. “A lot of the masks talk about putting on a face of being strong, depicting armor or a helmet, but the other side is vulnerable.”

A number of the masks have images over the lips, such as locks, stitches, and gags.

“Many of the masks have guilt, grief written on them or depicted,” Kaimal explained. “They have things on their mouths to show that they aren’t allowed to talk or feel they should talk about what they’re feeling.”

That’s an important part of utilizing art therapy for the service members: many feel an inability to express their emotions verbally, so art is a way to communicate.

“A lot of research will tell you that when you’re in a traumatic experience, the part of the brain that controls speech shuts down,” Kaimal said. “So having a non-verbal way — such as art — to communicate is key to understanding what they’re going through.”

One service member serving as a case study had recurring flashbacks to a bloody face he saw while in Iraq. He used his mask to recreate that face and, through the guidance of an art therapist, put the mask in a physical box and closed it.

Now, that service member’s flashbacks to the face have significantly decreased.

“Through art therapy with Ms. Walker, he was able to externalize a lot of feelings that were trapped in him,” Kaimal said.

Since the program began, a second site was opened at the Intrepid Spirit I, a NICoE satellite in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, working with art therapist Jacqueline Jones.  And other forms of creative arts are being examined, such as music therapy, which Drexel’s Joke Bradt, PhD, associate professor, Creative Arts Therapies department is participating in with Rebecca Vaudreuil, a music therapist at NICoE.

Eventually, Kaimal hopes to analyze other pieces of visual art created by the service members, such as the montage paintings they create as they are leaving the program. But she’s continuing to pore over the masks. And many of the service members in the program are recognizing their power.

“Some of those in the program will voluntarily leave their masks behind after they’ve finished up and say, ‘I want to inspire others,’” Kaimal said.

This story first appeared in DrexelNow.


Stephen and Sandra Sheller watched proudly as the ribbon was cut on their “miracle” in the fall. The couple gifted $2.5 million to expand Drexel’s 11th Street Family Health Services, which now has the space to accommodate more patients and more training for Drexel students.

By Alissa Falcone

Although the official name of Drexel’s health center at 11th and Parrish streets is the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, it has adopted a more endearing moniker.

“Sandy and I wanted to be certain that 11th Street would have the best possible facilities to continue to expand and deliver what we call ‘The Miracle on 11th Street,’” said Stephen, a Drexel trustee and lawyer who cofounded the Sheller Family Foundation with Sandra, his wife and a Drexel alumnus. “We have had several years now to watch this miracle grow.”

The Sheller Family Foundation gifted $2.5 million in 2014 to expand the quality, comprehensive health services offered to residents of public housing units in the 11th Street Corridor in North Philadelphia. Sandra has been involved with what is now the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center since 2006. While interning at a nearby Salvation Army family homeless shelter, she often referred clients to the facility as she worked toward a post-master’s certificate in the College of Nursing and Health Professions’ Couples and Family Therapy Program.

A November ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the expansion of the “Miracle on 11th Street.” 

This expansion, which broke ground in June of 2014, provides double the space for more patients to receive clinical and practical care, as well as expanded capacity for more Drexel students to be trained. The space has doubled to over 34,000 square feet, thanks to a new two-story wing and a connector passageway between the two structures.

Now, community members can participate in art, music and dance and movement therapies and exercise in a fitness center on the upstairs level of the new wing. Downstairs, they can receive nutritional support and education, dental services, physical therapy and primary care.

“You do not come here just for a pill to treat a symptom, but for expert, committed delivery of health care services of the highest quality,” said Stephen. “When treating health, one must also treat the emotional and social well-being of a client, patient and family.”

Sandra, the director and president of the Sheller Family Foundation, received a master’s degree in art therapy from the College of Nursing and Health Professions in 2004. After she graduated with her post-master’s certificate two years later, she continued to supervise Drexel creative arts in therapy graduate-level students, one of which conducted her internship practice at Drexel’s 11th Street Center.

“What I appreciated at that time was the holistic view and comprehensive care that 11th Street adopted, and their awareness of the importance of considering trauma in their treatment of their patients. Plus, 11th Street provided such a rich education for Drexel students in a multitude of disciplines,” she said.

After both Shellers joined the advisory board of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, they learned more about the facility through several presentations made by Patty Gerrity, PhD, professor and associate dean for community programs in the college.

“Patty’s unique perspective to consider behavioral health as important when treating primary care for an inner-city population was an important factor in encouraging my husband and I to want to help expand 11th Street’s potential,” said Sandra.

Through their involvement with the Advisory Board, the Shellers started the “Friends of 11th Street” group to raise interest for an expansion.

“My husband and I knew we wanted to take a front seat and spearhead moving the expansion of 11th Street to fruition. Patty’s creative ideas for healing and wellness were greater than the space 11th Street could contain, and we wanted to ensure that this beacon and model for the entire country would have the best possible space and resources to continue and expand its work,” said Sandra.

Last year, the facility provided care during 32,000 visits. With the expansion now fully completed, the space is even better equipped to provide more services.

Story first appeared in Drexel Magazine


CNHP 2015 Holiday Gathering for Faculty and Staff
December 15, 2015
3 – 4:30 p.m.
Three Parkway
6th Floor Student Lounge and Classrooms
Universal Design for Learning: Is it Universal?
Part of the 2016 “Raising the Bar” webinar series
January 12, 2016
11 a.m. -  1 p.m.
Evidence Based Practice Nursing Colloquium
February 10, 2016
8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Drexel University 
Creese Student Center, Behrakis Grand Hall
3210 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Transforming the Educational Landscape: Simulation, Innovation and Technology
March 14-15, 2016
Hilton Clearwater Beach
400 Mandalay Ave
Clearwater, FL 33767
Department of Creative Arts Therapies Reception for Music Therapy Alumni
March 19, 2016
Hilton of Harrisburg
1 N. 2nd Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Held in conjunction with the American Music Therapy Association Mid-Atlantic Region Conference call 1.888.DU.GRADS to RSVP
Screen Capture Tools – Common and Uncommon Uses
Part of the 2016 “Raising the Bar” webinar series
April 12, 2016
11 a.m. -  1 p.m.
Forensic Trends in Health Care
April 15-17, 2016
Drexel University Center City Campus
Philadelphia, PA
Save the Date 
More details to follow
Physician Assistant Board Review Course
March 21-23, 2016
Center City Campus
Alumni Weekend 
May 6-7, 2016
Alumni Weekend is the largest and most exciting event to bring alumni back to campus each year! The Class of 1966 will be inducted into the Golden Dragon Society at the annual luncheon and recognize outstanding class members. The Class of 1991 will become Silver Dragons, as they celebrate 25 years since they were students at Drexel. If you graduated in 1966 or 1991 and you would like to help plan your reunion celebration at Alumni Weekend, as well as invite your classmates back to campus, contact Lauren Villanueva BA '04, MS '10, executive director of alumni relations at
All alumni are invited and encouraged to attend events throughout the weekend. Stay tuned for more information coming soon!
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