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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



We’ve all heard of laughter being the best medicine, but what about music?
A systematic review published by the Cochrane Library found that there is significant evidence that music interventions help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, pain and fatigue in cancer patients, while also boosting their quality of life. 
Joke BradtLed by Joke Bradt, PhD, associate professor in Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, a team looked into studies that examined the impact of music therapy (a personalized music experience offered by trained music therapists) and music medicine (listening to pre-recorded music provided by a doctor or nurse) on psychological and physical outcomes in people with cancer. 
“We found that music therapy interventions specifically help improve patients’ quality of life,” explained Bradt. “These are important findings as these outcomes play an important role in patients’ overall well-being.”
A total of 52 trials were examined in the review, constituting of 3,731 participants with cancer. Twenty-three of the trials were categorized as music therapy and the remaining 29 were classified as music medicine interventions. 
Overall, one of the most impactful findings was that music interventions of all kinds resulted in a moderate-to-strong effect in reducing patients’ anxiety.
When it came to pain reduction, the researchers found a large treatment benefit; for fatigue, a small-to-moderate treatment effect was found. 
Small reductions in heart and respiratory rates, as well as lowered blood pressure, were also linked to music interventions.
“The results of single studies suggest that music listening may reduce the need for anesthetics and analgesics, as well as decreased recovery time and duration of hospitalization, but more research is needed for these outcomes,” according to Bradt and her co-authors.
When comparing music therapy to music medicine, the team saw a moderate increase in patients’ quality of life when music therapy was applied. There was not a similar effect in the case of music medicine interventions.
“Both music medicine and music therapy interventions play an important role in cancer care but we didn’t quite know yet which interventions may be best suited for which type of outcome,” Bradt said. 
In light of the benefits to cancer patients’ quality of life, and specifically their levels of anxiety, pain and fatigue, the researchers hope music interventions will become more widespread.
“We hope that the findings of this review will encourage health care providers in medical settings to seriously consider the use of music therapy in the psychosocial care of people with cancer,” Bradt said.
By Frank Otto
Story first appeared on Drexel News Blog.


The adult coloring book phenomena is at an all-time high, as more people look to find ways to center themselves in a chaotic world. With this activity steadily gaining popularity and momentum, art therapists are more motivated than ever before to make the distinction between art therapy and a therapeutic activity such as coloring. Our own Nancy Gerber, PhD, director of the PhD Art Therapy Program shared her insights in a recent opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A group of 50 art therapists in New York, including Drexel Art Therapy and Counseling Program alum Julia Toal, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT’14, have joined together to raise awareness about the profession of art therapy and highlight the professional services that cannot be found in the pages of a coloring book. Their creative approach to this discussion is in the form of a coloring book of their own, entitled The Real Art Therapists of New York. Toal learned about the project through the New York Art Therapy Association, and happily answered the call to get involved.

A program coordinator at Ocean Front Social Day Care, an adult social enrichment program for sufferers of chronic mental illness and physical disabilities, Toal acknowledges the relaxing effects of coloring. “While coloring books can be meditative or relaxing, especially for New Yorkers who are overworked and constantly on the go, they lack key components of art therapy. Art therapy uses the art making process along with verbal therapy to aid people in understanding and processing their emotions, allows them to work through problems, encourages them to better their relationships and communication skills, and assists them in working toward life goals – that’s the main difference. Coloring can act as a coping skill for stress or anxiety, but it does not get to the root of a problem, or open someone’s eyes to maladaptive patterns of behavior. Only a trained art therapist can do that.”

Each page in The Real Art Therapists of New York coloring book includes a hand drawn image from an art therapist and a short interview about their work. The mission is to raise awareness about the profession of art therapy, and to help consumers make educated decisions about where to find professional services that will lead to greater improvement in mental health.

The group is reaching New Yorkers through public service and community-building “pop-up coloring bars.” The inaugural event, on March 26th at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, saw hundreds of people who came in to take a moment, relax, color, learn about self-care and the mental health benefits of art making and most importantly, get to know The Real Art Therapists of New York.

“People come in to the pop-up event and sign up to color a sheet of their choosing from the book. We had no idea it would be so popular, but there was actually about an hour and a half wait to color. It’s a great opportunity to take time to be introspective and check in about how you’re feeling that day,” said Toal. “While people are coloring we’re mingling and asking questions related to what’s going on in their lives. This really shows them what an art therapist does and how art therapy enhances a therapeutic activity, like coloring. We’re there to delve deeper into what’s going on with you personally.” Toal said their presence and support at the event gives attendees insight into what an art therapy session might feel like. “I try to ask people questions about why they picked that particular image to color. I remember I was talking to one woman who chose to color in an image of a woman crying. I asked her why that image spoke to her, and she told me about how she had recently just gone through a tough breakup, and identified with this image. Another woman chose to color in an image of a jar. She struggled with what to put inside, and eventually ended up coloring the whole jar in one color. I asked her why she hadn’t put anything inside, and she said there were too many possibilities, and that she didn’t know what she wanted. I asked her if that feeling of not knowing what she wanted extended to other areas of her life. She said yes, and we spoke about that. So the coloring part of the day might have been relaxing, but by talking about the process insight was happening.”

Since the launch event, there have been more than 10 pop-up coloring bars at a variety of venues, from art supply stores to Governor’s Island. “It just keeps growing! The movement has really expanded since we’ve started this,” said Toal. Anecdotal feedback from attendees has also shown that a new understanding has come from this work. “People’s eyes were open to the world of art therapy. It’s really nice to see people learning more about what we do and what our profession is like,” said Toal, who was surprised to learn that a lot of people already had a sound understanding of therapy.

Motivated by the change that is already so evident as a result of the book, Toal sees no end in sight. The pop-up bars will continue to spread throughout New York City as will a new-found awareness of the impact of art therapy.

By Margaret DeGennaro ‘12


After her baby was born, a Philadelphia mother could not leave her side without crying. The mom would wake up multiple times during the night to check her breathing. Sometimes while carrying the newborn down the stairs, she feared she would drop her. 

Her friends and family told her she was just experiencing a bit of the “baby blues.” But a post-pregnancy survey revealed something deeper: She was suffering from post-partum depression —a condition that can last for several months or longer and affects more than 3 million U.S. women per year.

The mother is not comfortable releasing her name, due to the stigma attached to her disorder, but she is in her mid-twenties and lives in Northeast Philadelphia.

“This was supposed to be a very happy moment in my life, and I felt the opposite. You try to explain it to people, and they don’t get it,” she said. “The expectations of how you’re supposed to feel kind of keeps you quiet.”

After her survey results revealed symptoms of depression, the mother’s OB-GYN referred her to a new, interdisciplinary pilot program based at Drexel University.

The program, called Mother-Baby Connections, is one of only five or so intensive outpatient clinics of its kind in the United States, and the only one in the mid-Atlantic region. Unlike many other postpartum psychiatric clinics, the Drexel program emphasizes the mother’s relationship with her baby and encourages patients to bring their children to therapy.

Based on models common in Canada, Europe, Israel and Australia, Mother-Baby Connections provides an assortment of therapies, including creative arts and dance classes — which the mothers attend as a group twice per week — as well as individual and couples counseling sessions that use evidence-based approaches to treat patients. The intensive program squeezes one-year worth of therapy into eight weeks, allowing women to feel better quicker and to resume therapy at their usual pace after the program ends.

Mother-Baby Connections is also helping to train a new generation of mental health professionals and allowing researchers to gather much-needed data on the understudied topic of postpartum depression. Most of all, it is giving a voice to women who assumed they would have to suffer in silence.

Giving Mothers a Voice

Bobbie Posmontier, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, is a midwife and advanced practice psychiatric nurse who has delivered over 2,000 babies. She has treated mothers who suffered from mental illness during and after pregnancy.

Many of the women who she worked with could not easily access the type of mental health care that Posmontier believed would be the most beneficial: treatment that focuses on a mother’s needs, while also helping improve relationships with her baby, partner and other family members.

In January, a government-appointed health panel recommended for the first time screening for maternal mental illness. And while the recommendation may encourage physicians to identify mothers affected by depression, Posmontier said handing a patient a referral slip does not often ensure she will get connected with care. 

“If you screen for any kind of psychiatric illness, then the question is, where do you send them? There are very few mental health resources, especially for low-income women in Philadelphia,” Posmontier said. “There are community behavioral health centers that provide some treatment, but I believe these mothers really need specialized care.”

Aware of this gap, Posmontier teamed up with Pamela Geller, PhD, an associate professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and research associate professor in the College of Medicine, whose research focuses on women’s reproductive health and mental illness.

Together, they introduced a pilot program and began recruiting patients from the Women’s Care Center at Drexel Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“We realize that, with many women who have high-risk pregnancies, if we don’t address their mental health issues, their medical conditions are not going to get better,” said Owen Montgomery, MD, chair of the OB-GYN Department in the College of Medicine.

Mother-Baby Connections addresses four important areas — the role transition to becoming a mother, interpersonal communication, social isolation and the mental health symptoms women are experiencing.  In addition, the program works on improving the attachment bonds between new mothers and their families, including the baby and partner. Group therapies and counseling sessions give mothers safe outlets to express themselves, while also providing a community of mothers who are sharing the same struggles. Mothers may also receive medication if needed to treat their condition.

Especially for mothers who have experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic birth, meeting other women in their same situation can help to validate and normalize their experiences, Posmontier said.

“A lot of times women don’t have a voice in labor. I think the providers want to make the best experience possible, but they don’t really understand what it’s like to go through that — how public and traumatic the experience can be — even if it is a healthy birth,” Posmontier said. “In this program, it’s about telling women, ‘Your experience is really important.’”

Driving Research and Education

In addition to the clinical side of the program, Mother-Baby Connections also has a mission to train new mental health care professionals and gather research data to help better understand postpartum depression.

“We have tools to identify postpartum depression, which should be instituted more regularly, but we do not have enough perinatal mental health care providers in the community to address the need,” said Geller. “Through Mother-Baby Connections, we are developing experiential learning opportunities for Drexel students in this specialized area.”

Several graduate and post-doctoral students are already working in the program, and Drexel faculty members are applying for grants to train more.

According to Geller, many studies have linked postpartum depression to cognitive, behavioral and socio-emotional impairments for the mother and child. However, more research is needed about contributors to postpartum depression, how to identify biological markers of the disorder and how to measure treatment outcomes.

“We can look at behavioral markers like impaired mother-infant interactions and reports of depressive symptoms,” Geller said. “But we don’t yet have an objective, physiological marker to say that a woman has postpartum depression and to measure whether she is getting better.”

Geller and a research team plan to work with Drexel biomedical engineering faculty to potentially come up with that marker, and they also want to evaluate the best treatment options for mothers with postpartum depression.

For current mothers in the program, they are hoping Mother-Baby Connections, and other programs like it, will encourage other mothers who are experiencing perinatal depression to seek help.

“This gives us a chance to work on ourselves, and I’m learning that’s not a selfish thing,” said one of the program’s patients. “We’re doing it for ourselves, but ultimately we’re doing it for the baby, too.”

By Lauren Ingeno, University Communications

This story first appeared in Drexel Now. Creative Arts Therapies are also a part of this interdisciplinary Program.

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