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Master of Arts in Music Therapy and Counseling

There's still time to apply! Deadline for applications is May 1, 2017.

Program

The Master of Arts in Music Therapy & Counseling is a 90 quarter-credit program that integrates advanced music therapy and general counseling coursework with hands-on clinical experience and research opportunities, preparing graduates for a variety of career paths in the music therapy profession.    Faculty include dedicated, knowledgeable music therapists as well as other creative arts therapists, clinical psychologists and counseling educators, offering a curriculum focused on in-depth study of foundational and innovative music therapy and mental health theories and approaches. The program is designed to be completed in two years (7 quarters) of full-time study. Classes held during the regular academic year (Fall, Winter and Spring quarters) are taught in-person at our Center City Philadelphia campus, while coursework in the Summer term can be completed remotely.

Founded in 1975, the MA in Music Therapy & Counseling is one of the few music therapy  academic programs in the country housed on a health sciences campus. This setting provides a unique perspective on the merging  of arts and health sciences, with an emphasis on culturally responsive interprofessional education.  Students have opportunities for clinical experience, research and more at several University- related facilities, including Hahnemann University Hospital, Parkway Health & Wellness, the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center and the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.

Our program is designed both for students who have a Bachelor’s degree in another field, and are seeking the required education and clinical experience to become a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC), as well as current Bachelor’s-level music therapists who wish to pursue advanced study in music therapy and counseling. All courses are taught at the graduate level; we do not offer an equivalency program.

The Music Therapy and Counseling Curriculum is approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible to sit for the examination of the Certification Board for Music Therapists, to earn the MT-BC credential. Our program also meets the Pennsylvania Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) education requirements. Please note that licensure requirements vary from state to state, and may change at any time. Therefore, if you are considering counseling licensure in the future, you are strongly advised to review educational requirements for any state(s) in which you may seek counseling licensure. It is the student’s responsibility to know and understand the requirements for any type of future licensure.

What you'll learn

  • Integration of music therapy methodologies with mental health counseling and medical sciences theories and approaches.
  • Daily interaction with music, art and dance/movement therapists, psychologists, neuroscientists, physicians and other health professionals as teachers and supervisors.
  • Clinical applications of  instrumental and vocal improvisation, composition,  re-creative and imagery methods within music psychotherapy and counseling, medical music therapy and developmentally-focused treatment models.
  • Multiple supervised adult and child clinical placement opportunities in a variety of settings, including medical and psychiatric hospitals, inpatient and outpatient behavioral health facilities, schools, continuing care facilities, community health centers, correctional facilities and more.
  • Basic understanding of art and dance/movement therapies and their relationship to music therapy.
  • Interaction with students and educators representing all the health sciences.
  • A culminating project (traditional research thesis or capstone project) focused on a student’s chosen area of interest, and guided by a multidisciplinary advisement committee.
  • Student presentation of research at local, regional, and national conferences.

What makes the Drexel Music Therapy and Counseling program unique?

  • Housed in Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, on the University’s health sciences campus.
  • Mental health counseling component of curriculum, which covers topics such as Human Psychological Development, Clinical Diagnosis, Group Dynamics, Theories of Psychotherapy, and Social and Cultural Foundations in Counseling and Psychotherapy, and prepares students for professional counseling licensure in Pennsylvania.
  • A strong emphasis on multicultural perspectives and social justice.
  • The opportunity to study alongside art therapy and dance/movement therapy students, creating opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement and collaboration.
  • Students complete coursework and clinical experiences simultaneously, allowing for synthesis of theoretical and practical knowledge throughout the program.

There's still time to apply! Deadline for applications is May 1, 2017.

COMPLIANCE

The College of Nursing and Health Professions has a compliance process that may be required for every student. Some of these steps may take significant time to complete. Please plan accordingly.

Visit the Compliance pages for more information.

Admission Requirements

Background checks:

As a student of the College of Nursing and Health Professions you will be required to satisfactorily complete a criminal background check, child and elder abuse checks, drug test, immunizations, physical exams, health history, and/or other types of screening before being permitted to begin clinical training.

You will not need to submit documentation of these requirements as part of your application to the master’s program. Failure to fully satisfy these requirements as directed upon enrollment may prevent assignment to a clinical site for training.  A background check that reflects a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor may affect your ability to be placed in certain facilities, and later, to become board certified and licensed.

Deadline:

We accept and review applications on a rolling basis through May 1st for entry the following Fall. We encourage you to apply as early as possible, as the incoming class often reaches capacity before May 1st.

Degree:
Baccalaureate degree and demonstrate musical competencies in performance, music theory, and music history. Must have a GPA of 3.0 or above on all previous coursework.

Standardized Tests:
N/A

Transcripts:

  • Official transcripts must be sent directly to Drexel from all the colleges/universities that you have attended. Transcripts must be submitted in a sealed envelope with the college/university seal over the flap. Please note that transcripts are required regardless of number of credits taken or if the credits were transferred to another school. An admission decision may be delayed if you do not send transcripts from all colleges/universities attended.
  • Transcripts must show course-by-course grades and degree conferrals. If your school does not notate degree conferrals on the official transcripts, you must provide copies of any graduate or degree certificates.
  • If your school issues only one transcript for life, you are required to have a course-by-course evaluation completed by an approved transcript evaluation agency
  • Use our Transcript Lookup Tool to assist you in contacting your previous institutions

Prerequisites:
Volunteer or paid experience in a helping relationship preferred.

References:
Three letters of recommendation required. Letters should address academic and musical background. At least one letter should be from a music instructor. Letters of recommendation should be requested and submitted electronically through your online application.

Personal Statement/ Essay:
A 300-750 word essay that focuses on the role of music in your development and family, and how your life path led you to music therapy.

Interview/Portfolio:

Audition: At the audition, applicants will:

  1. Prepare two works from different musical periods or in different music styles that demonstrate moderate to advanced level of proficiency on principal instrument/voice.
  2. Sing a traditional, folk, or popular song while accompanying self on piano.
  3. Sing a traditional, folk, or popular song while accompanying self on guitar.
  4. Be prepared to play basic chord progressions (I-IV-V-I) in several keys on piano and guitar in several keys. 
  5. Play the melody of a given well-known song and provide the harmonic progression.
  6. Demonstrate knowledge of music theory related to transposition, constructing chords.

International and long-distance candidates may submit a recorded audition on DVD or online  in lieu of items 1-4 above. International and long distance candidates should request instructions about all these requirements with their admission materials and are advised to begin the admission process early.

Interview: An in-depth in-person interview with the faculty of the graduate music therapy program, consisting of a review of personal, academic, interpersonal and creative aptitudes. Applicants will also be asked to demonstrate knowledge of one or more of the following topics: basic periods of Western music; jazz history; World music. For international and long-distance applicants, a phone interview or video chat may be substituted for the in-person interview.

CV/Resume:
Required.  Include relevant education, work and service/volunteer experience.

Clinical/Work/Volunteer Experience:
A social service work or volunteer history and cross cultural experience is highly valued.

Additional Requirements for International Applicants

  • Transcript Evaluation: All international students applying to a graduate program must have their transcripts evaluated by the approved agency: World Education Services (WES), 212.966.6311, Bowling Green Station, P.O. Box 5087, New York, NY 10274-5087, Web site: www.wes.org/.
  • TOEFL: Applicants who have not received a degree in the United States are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). An official score report must be sent directly from the Educational Testing Service. For more information visit the Web site: www.ets.org, then click on TOEFL.
  • I-20/DS-2019 and Supporting Financial Documents (international students only): Please print, complete, and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Application Form (PDF). 

International Consultants of Delaware, Inc.
P.O. Box 8629
Philadelphia, PA 19101-8629
215.222.8454, ext. 603

Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools
3600 Market St., Suite 400
Philadelphia, PA 19104-2651
215.349.8767

World Education Services, Inc. (WES)
Bowling Green Station, P.O. Box 5087
New York, NY 10274-5087
212.966.631

Tuition and Fee Rates
Please visit the Tuition and Fee Rates page on Drexel Central

Application Link (if outside organization):
N/A


Curriculum

Research

The program contains at least two research components. First-year students complete a research proposal related to the influence of music upon behavior. Second-year students are required to conduct original research in the form of a master’s thesis with the guidance of their director and a thesis committee. Once completed, a copy of the thesis becomes a permanent holding of the Drexel University library. First and second-year research projects are presented in a variety of research forums including the Drexel University’s Research, Scholarship, Innovation and Creativity Day, the Music Therapy Research Colloquium, and may be submitted to regional and national music therapy conferences.


Accreditation

The Music Therapy and Counseling program is approved by the American Music Therapy Association.

http://www.musictherapy.org/ 

Clinical Practice

Students complete more than 1,200 hours of graduate clinical practicum and internship experiences under the supervision of a board-certified music therapist. Placements include pediatric and adult psychiatric and general hospitals, recovery and wellness programs, therapeutic day care, preschool intervention programs, rehabilitation settings, long-term care facilities, forensic settings, schools, and community music therapy programs.

Students begin their clinical experience as soon as they enter the program. The clinical education is enhanced by 3 to 3.5 hours of individual and group supervision per week.

First-year students gain practical and theoretical knowledge regarding a range of clinical populations across two placements assigned by the Director of Field Education.  During practicum experiences supervised by on-site board-certified music therapists, students are guided through observation, assisting and co-leading of music therapy sessions in preparation for the second-year internship.

Clinical internship lasts the entire second year and offers an opportunity for students to mature and develop advanced skills with one or, in some cases, two populations. The internship is chosen by the student with assistance from the Director of Field Education and approved by the Music Therapy Program Director.  The practicum and internship fulfill the clinical training requirements of the American Music Therapy Association. 

Katy Hutchings, MA ‘15 - Music Therapist

Hometown: Piedmont, CA

Undergraduate: BA, Music (Minor in Educational Studies), Haverford College; MM, Voice Performance, Temple University

Current Employment:  Music Therapist at Young Children's Center for the Arts, Philadelphia, PA

How did the MTC program help you discover and gain experience in your areas of interest? 
I loved that I had clinical experience throughout my two years at Drexel. While other programs make you wait to start clinical work, Drexel allowed me to dive right in and immediately start enhancing my education by seeing and participating in actual music therapy in the real world. As someone who was new to music therapy, this was incredibly valuable. Integrating clinical work and course work deepened my understanding of music therapy. I especially appreciated being able to find and choose my own internship my second year, allowing me to focus on working with children with developmental delays, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other neurological diagnoses. 

How did your musical identity transform while you were in the Music Therapy program?
Coming from a career of being a professional singer and voice teacher, it was quite a shock to redefine myself as music therapist. I was a complete beginner at guitar and it was very humbling!  I also had never improvised and was not as confident in my improvisational skills. By the end of the program, I grew to love playing the guitar and improvising. 
What aspects of the curriculum were valuable in addressing issues of diversity, multicultural awareness, and social justice?
From our first day, we were introduced to instruments and musical styles from all over the world and different cultures. Musically, we explored a large variety of styles in a safe, nonjudgmental environment and our own personal music histories were valued as well. In our core curriculum courses, I appreciate the focus on diversity and multicultural awareness especially in terms of our role as therapists in such a diverse city like Philadelphia. 

What guidance would you give students who are considering Drexel’s MA in Music Therapy & Counseling? 
Drexel's program is intense but in two years you will feel confident in your skills as a clinician, counselor, and musician. All of my classmates were able to find full time work almost immediately and that speaks to how prepared we all were entering the job market. As an older student returning to school to start a new career, I felt very respected and supported by the faculty and my peers. Another benefit of Drexel's program is the opportunity to take classes with Art Therapy and Dance Movement Therapy students, allowing me to gain a broader perspective of Creative Arts Therapies. I now have a greater sense of how the arts can be used in therapy and I also have a large network of peers from all three modalities. 

Michael Mahoney MA’10 – Alum, Practicum/Internship Supervisor

Hometown: Brockport, NY

Undergraduate major and institution: Philosophy (with Business Studies minor) at SUNY Geneseo

Current Employment: Music Therapist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Why did you choose Drexel’s Music Therapy & Counseling program? I appreciated that Drexel would not require me to earn an undergraduate music degree, as I didn’t have a particular interest in becoming an expert on a specific instrument. Instead, I was able to use my own past experiences (playing in bands with friends, music technology) to develop my model to my own strengths.

What guidance would you give students who are considering Drexel’s MA in Music Therapy & Counseling?
Gain musical experiences, either by learning formal music theory, or on the side of playing music by playing music in performing groups before you begin. 

How did this program prepare you for a career as a music therapist? Through classwork and on-site experiences, I learned everything I needed to know to stand at the starting line of my own music therapy professional practice. I received huge amounts of support from respected experts in the field, and learned to initiate an ongoing learning process that continues to enrich my work today.

What has your professional experience been like? Extremely rewarding and marked by good fortune! I accepted a job at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia shortly after graduation, and I am now nearing my six-year anniversary. Every day I support patients and their families in playing out their thoughts, feelings and values through musical experiences during life-changing illnesses and hospitalizations. I think a lot about how to support everyone I meet from infant patients to their great-grandparents in the developmental challenges they face. This great honor is also a great responsibility, which I take very seriously.

What aspects of the curriculum were valuable in addressing issues of diversity, multicultural awareness, and social justice?
Our class content helped me understand how my (white, male, hetero cis-gendered) perspectives and values are not necessarily "the norm" for everyone, but rather just a single reference point out of so many across the city and the world.  It showed me how community or other non-Western approaches can be more beneficial for the struggling person, than anything that fits my ideas of what's normal.

News & Events

 

05/01/17

A paper by health sciences student Taylor Collins and her professor, Krista L. Rompolski, PhD has been published. “Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: Causes, Complications & Controversies” appears in Journal of Student Research in Volume 6, Issue 1.
 
Stella Lucia Volpe, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, was the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award at the Annual Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) Symposium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The award recognizes Volpe’s outstanding contribution to research in the field of dietetics and her commitment to scholarship.
 
Margaret Finley, PT, PhD, associate professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, is one of six faculty to receive a career development award from the Office of Faculty Affairs for 2017- 2018. The award is designed for tenure-track faculty members to increase their exposure to colleagues at other institutions who will be mentors and collaborators. Finley’s proposal is the "Biopsychosocial Approach to Musculoskeletal Pain with Applications to Spinal Cord Injury." As part of her award activities, Finley will visit the labs of Richard Shields, PT, PhD, FAPTA and Laura Frey Law, PT, PhD at the University of Iowa. Steven George, PT, PhD, Duke University, and Shields will give presentations at Drexel University. Collectively, the mentors will provide a foundation for application of genetic phenotype biomarkers and measurement of psychosocial behaviors in adults with spinal cord injuries. 
 
Ryan J Clancy, MSHS, MA, PA-C, DFAAPA, clinical instructor in the physician assistant program, has been recognized as a Distinguished Fellow of AAPA. Clancy earned this national recognition due to his outstanding contributions to patient care and the profession during his years as a physician assistant. He also demonstrated significant dedication and involvement in the community of Philadelphia.
 
Health Administration Press (HAP) will be publishing a book co-edited by Stephen F. Gambescia, PhD, MEd, MBA, MHum, MCHES, professor in health services administration about “Managing the Nonprofit Health Organization in the New Economy.” HAP is a leading publisher of health administration and is affiliated with the Association of Health Care Executives (AHCE).
 
CNHP is hosting the 6th Annual Philadelphia Area Simulation Consortium: Assessment and Evaluation in Simulation on June 15, 2017. The consortium provides opportunity for specialty-specific breakout sessions, presentations featuring innovative uses of simulation for education, research, simulation technicians, and administrators; and to promote regional networking for hospital based and academic simulation centers. Key note speakers include Tony Errichetti, PhD, CHSE and Kathie Lasater, EdD, RN, ANEF, FANN.
 
Sherry Goodill, PhD, BC-DMT, NCC, LPC, Creative Arts Therapies department chair, moderated a panel discussion, "The Arts and Healing" on Thursday, April 6 as part of a performance by Jessica Lang Dance at the Prince Theater, presented by NextMove Dance. The panel also included veteran Mike Mulligan, who spoke about his use of the arts in his recovery and healing process. The performance that followed featured all new work by Jessica Lang Dance, including "Thousand Yard Stare," a physically riveting tribute to veterans set to Beethoven's String Quartet #15. The title refers to the blank and bewildered gaze of the shell-shocked soldier returning from war. 
 
The official establishment of The Center for Family Intervention Science (CFIS), the first research center in the College of Nursing and Health Professions was recently announced. The Center is directed by Guy Diamond, PhD, associate professor and faculty member in the Couple and Family Therapy department. The CFIS will foster interprofessional collaborations among faculty interested in research that promotes family strengths and reduces barriers to child and family health and wellbeing. The Center is committed to working with diverse populations throughout the life span and in both university and community settings. PhD students and post-doctoral fellows in the College interested in family-centered interventions will have opportunities to engage in Center activities. The Center will also support training, clinical, and policy-related activities related to family intervention science. 
 
 
Sponsored Research
 
Brandy-Joe Milliron, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Nutrition Sciences was awarded $22,300 for her project Heart Healthy Cooking Lab: Youth Exploring Wellness through Gardening. 
 
Clare Milner, PhD, associate professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, was awarded $14,000 for her project Impact Shock and Risk of Stress Fracture in Walking, Marching and Running. 
 
Both projects involve interprofessional research teams. Funding is for one year. The findings will enable the investigators to apply for extra-mural funding.
 
Ming Yuan Low, student in PhD Program in Creative Arts Therapy was recently awarded a research grant by the Mid-Atlantic Region of the American Music Therapy Association for his study entitled ‘The Music Interaction Scale: Examining Inter-rater Reliability of a New Nordoff-Robbins Scale’. This study will be in collaboration with the AJ Autism Institute at Drexel and the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center at New York University. Low’s research advisor is Joke Bradt, PhD, MT-BC, Associate Professor, Department of Creative Arts Therapies.
 
 

03/28/17

By Roberta Perry
 

Natalie Carlton, PhD is the new director of the MA Art therapy and Counseling program and clinical associate professor in the Creative Arts Therapies (CAT) Department. This Temple University undergraduate studied fine art and visual anthropology, and while she identified herself as an artist, she wasn’t one who sought solo shows or exhibits of her work. She was more drawn to collaboration with people in visual arts, theater and music. This was a perfect entry into art therapy.

Early on, Carlton developed an appreciation for folk art, multi-media use, and artists that “were considered visionary or ‘outsider’ artists producing outside the fine art academy.” She was drawn to and identified with persons and ideas that created spaces and truths outside established norms. “I found that art can be exciting, very enlivening to the person who was making it within a greater community or cause,” said Carlton. Art therapy afforded her exposure to people who were creating art with tools and media that proved very versatile, whether children working with weaving materials in outdoor spaces, people with mental illnesses working with found materials, adults with intellectual disabilities developing artistic practices and careers, and families and communities who may face challenges but evidence empowerment and creativity through self-representational photography or videos. Carlton found creative processes and products helped develop an interesting exchange of immediacy or longer sustained conversation between the makers and the viewers.

To help CNHP and all its constituents get to know Carlton, the following questions and answers are from a recent interview with her.

RP: What is art therapy?

NC: It’s hard to unpack quickly and without context. Art therapy seems so simple, but once you get into its theories and methods, clinical applications and assessments, and research, it’s complex. It is also delivered, conceived of and described in a variety of ways by art therapists. For me, art therapy is more than clients simply expressing emotions or thoughts through visual imagery. It’s also more than art therapists being able to “interpret images” and in turn, come to know things about people to help them. It’s a phenomenon beyond words but also steeped in them. It’s about collaboration. It’s about cultural intersections and holding different perspectives between client and therapists, or coming together into treatment communities and holding purposeful intention and communication.

I’ve done a lot of work with youth coming out of incarceration, youth and families of mixed racial and socioeconomic identifications, and it’s been very powerful work. Using art therapy media and methods as tools of “healing” are not finite vehicles to how each particular therapeutic relationship or process can work. The structure, improvisation or play of creativity can be vital movement and pathways of the body and mind, display concrete to abstract thinking and communication, hold both flow and resistance — and being a creative person has made me more able to interact with large varieties of people and to have a certain authenticity and realness. Being an art therapist has reinforced values of give and take, respect and humility for others and myself. Being a creative person with an open mind has brought me very powerful experiences within the different situations we call therapy.

RP: I believe I have a misconception of how art therapy works. Is it more than drawing a picture? How does it work?

NC: Part of the complication is that both art and therapy work at multiple levels and they work in combination differently for diverse people. It is hard to answer that direct question simply and give an example that’s applicable to everyone. I’ve worked a lot with children and parents. Let me just give you an example of that.

Let us say a parent and child came to my private practice seeking art therapy services. I would sign them in through an informed consent process; explain confidentiality, how Medicaid or insurance works for subsidizing or paying outright for sessions, and answer any questions about therapy and how it may work for their situation or needs. Some families would know that I’m an art therapist and others would not, they just knew that I took insurance and I had a good reputation in our community, so those may be some the primary reasons why they were coming to me. I would describe my training, and then show them a little about what art therapy can be by leading them through an experience with art media, either together or separate. If a young person and a parent come in to focus on the child’s behaviors at school, I would actively listen, evaluate stress levels in the family, and how the family is absorbing the stress and interrelated behaviors and/or deflecting or mirroring them into additional situations. We would try to identify together what was creating the behaviors and when to track the frequency they occurred. To build rapport and get to know them a bit I would ask each of them to do a personal symbol drawing. Depending on the age of the child, theirs might be on multiple pieces of paper or maybe something spontaneous they wished to draw. With the parent, the activity I facilitated might have communicated, “Hey I want to get to know you.” For the young person, it may be about starting a conversation with them about art materials, their experiences with them and what is on their mind. Self-identified symbols can be concrete and immediate and they also go into deeper levels of what we carry in our bodies and psyches, what we represent to ourselves and others, what we hold valuable within our belief systems. I sometimes asked many questions that first session and had multi-level exchanges if they could tolerate it well, if they could not, I would titrate the exchange and build in stages. But basically, I would be trying to get to “this is the situation, this is your system around it, and where do you see the therapy intervening?”  That was a typical introductory session in my way of applying art therapy.

Medicaid and other insurances typically require clinicians to diagnose the child and increase or decrease positive or maladaptive behaviors, but art therapy, my version of art therapy, we look at relationships, or the resources and strengths of each client while doing a differential diagnosis ascertaining if the issue of concern is rising from an organic problem (learning issue for example) or situational stressor (trauma response or unsafe family dynamics). I would be trying to diagnose, as my clinical roles and responsibilities required me often to do, but also critically build a relationship and where I would let people know directly, “your life, values, and symbols have meaning and we are finding solutions together.” An older adult or teenager may draw a mountainside and its rivers of snowmelt in Northern New Mexico and then tell me memories in that landscape and all the cultural truth of those experiences. At the end of 50 minutes, I would know that person in a way that would be very different than had we just talked. I guarantee you.

The art becomes a vehicle of bringing that visual or symbolic expression, thinking and sharing forward. If I had time, or at the next session, I might have those same family members do a drawing together. I might have the child initiate the drawing, and then the parent initiate the next one to see how they collaborate, cooperate, or if one tends to dominate the other. We’re typically finding answers and insights to problems indirectly and through “back doors” often by strengthening relationships.

RP: How do you get kids to open up?

NC: A child might be shut down emotionally for many reasons and as creative arts therapists, we are trained in how to conceptualize and safely handle difficult affect or behaviors. The first rule is to not take anything personal and be curious as to why something is presenting within an individual or a group. The “shut-down” behaviors may be due to how words get the child all tied up or angry inside because adults may not be listening carefully to what they are saying. I’ll never ask anybody to “draw your feelings” outright because emotions are very complicated, abstract notions. Feelings get expressed through exchanges and behaviors, and then maybe through carefully chosen words when we are much older. I worked with a child who was a perfectionist, and really creative. He had a lot of grief because his parents were going through a conflictual divorce. His grief was often expressed by trying to fix objects and to render carefully drawn lines, but he seemed to be really trying to fix his world that was falling apart. Those needs not being met by circumstances drove and triggered his larger emotional grief and need for protection. I remember him doing a drawing with a pencil and eraser, and through his dissatisfaction with elements of the drawing he would get so frustrated and angry. I evaluated I could safely let him go there because we had worked together to establish rapport, or trust. He collapsed after a few minutes of drawing and erasing, and he cried while I sat beside him quietly. By a therapeutic presence, you create a waiting and holding space with people that you are attending to and in that listening and “not doing,” you essentially validate their experiences. I eventually asked what was happening for him and he was able to say, “I get really sad.” We worked together for months while I simultaneously coached his mother in how she could increase his emotional support, defuse conflict in his immediate surroundings, and grow her insight regarding his triggers to frustration and sadness. The mother had acknowledged that he often expressed anger and perfectionism at home, but maybe he had never claimed “the why” until that moment when he really told a hard truth to a family outsider like me.  It started to change for him after that period, but not instantaneously.

Art therapy can help with communication because young people do not developmentally have direct emotional language — like the dimensions of what sad means. They aren’t hiding anything and they’re not dumb. They actually feel emotions deeply and embody them, and they struggle to communicate it all with words, so they often act it out or act in. When you’re doing something that’s action-oriented with young people like art therapy, you see their patterns of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings emerge in metaverbal ways. They may get frustrated easily but you may ask as an art therapist, “does this happen at school or at home too?”  So, the therapy space and interactions become an approximate of their lives, and an “as if” space to be themselves and begin to try out new ways of being through both the creativity and unique relationship with an art therapist. As art therapists, we are discerning and tracking the patterned behaviors with our clients and introducing new solutions or new versions so maybe they can begin to shift thoughts, feelings, and behaviors — and their other relationships too.

RP: Do people often worry that they don’t know how to draw when they go to art therapy?

NC: Yes, we definitely hear some of our clients say, ‘I’m not an artist.’ We introduce materials and directives that may inspire basic visual expression and art forms and then apply “scaffolded” techniques, including less and less structure in materials and directives, to see how clients may begin exploring more on their own. Art therapy is not about drawing well or teaching clients to draw well. It can be as simple as having them diagram out what happens in their thoughts and behaviors, or a situation with others. For people who don’t draw or create every day (which are most people besides children and non-artists), art therapists consciously structure media use and explorations for our clients and ask ourselves — what is creativity to this individual, what are art materials they wish to use and that suit or push their limits, what’s the impact of the materials like fabric versus ink versus clay versus drawing?

As an art therapist, I am sometimes actively teaching clients and family members about art material choices and their impacts, identifying if they’re relaxing, creating anxiety or making them push through things that frustrate. I am also simply providing a ritual of time and space. Young people so often do not have a solid hour with somebody where the door is shut and all cell phones are off or quiet. That sanctuary of time and space, and the consistency of a weekly appointment, is in and of itself, incredibly supportive and healing. When the parent takes the child to counseling or therapy, it places them also in role of support. The parent or caregiver is bringing and picking up the child, and they are essentially collaborating with the therapist and the child with that provision of access and communication exchange. That can shake up a family dynamic of discord and it helps build a new frame around the relationships by enhancing their trust in the short term, that they can resolve something harder in the long term. Nine times out of ten, the family is going through something challenging — that’s why the child is struggling.

Art therapy can be detective work and is extremely relational. I have seen people use art materials to do incredible things, but I really do think that most of the power lies in therapeutic relationship and the lessons clients learn about finding solutions and having more creative, flexible minds and perspectives. Sometimes, when youth are graduating or ending a term of art therapy, I ask them to take a pledge of creativity — I say ‘hold up your hand and repeat, when I am faced with a struggle or a hard thing, I will think creatively. I will be flexible. I will be patient with myself and others.’ Art therapy is not as much about taking away someone’s pain as it is about helping them look at it unapologetically and work with it, in ways that are empowering and increasing to their own sense of agency. 

RP: That sounds similar to the point of meditation and mindfulness — you’re not trying to run away, you’re trying to recognize and be aware that this is exactly where I am right now.

NC: Yes, you are actually embracing the truth rather than denying it. Therapy can be like that — dropping some “stop gaps” into the family dynamic or teaching them to slow down emotional reactions together. Maybe no one ever said the word divorce or they haven’t talked about the mother that died several years ago from a drug addiction. They have talked about her without talking about it. The avoidance causes great pain and when people finally tell their own truths and perspectives, then the avoided thing can start to lose power over them.

RP: It seems like what you do is more difficult than being a talk-only therapist. How do you blend that? Do you wear a therapist’s hat and an art therapist’s hat or is it all combined or how do you know what the proper course is for an individual?

NC: You take a lot of signals from clients — what do they need, what are their preferences, interests, boundaries — what are the fluctuating needs at the moment. I also know how to find my way to work with some people based somewhat on predictable behavioral patterns and cues I have learned having worked previously with similar situations. Again, the truth is often very contextual, but there are patterns to be discerned  —  and questioned. For instance, if I have a young person coming in with a lot of hyperactivity and unfocused behavior, I’m going to make sure my studio is put away and not too distracting. I am going to try to de-stimulate that child and create a lot of structure versus for another child who is more shut down, and maybe experiencing an emotional trauma, I might tempt his senses to draw him out. I might leave out a pile of fabric and see what he does with that. I am also going to question any generalizations I may make or patterns of thinking and behaving I show, and test out new possibilities all the time.

The Drexel University degree title is Art Therapy and Counseling and that hybrid of identity has added value to the mix of “art” and “therapy.”  Historically we had a bit of a preoccupation amongst creative arts therapists asking — are we therapists or artists? Now with the added counseling in the degree title, we are asking about dualities again, are we art therapists or counselors? We are discerning more and more what both, and a true integration, can mean for students’ careers and clinical skills. For me, the professional integrations happen over time, with work experience and collaborations with other therapists. In Taos, New Mexico where I worked for 20 years, there was only one other art therapist, no music or dance/movement therapists, so addictions and recovery counselors, professional counselors, social workers, and couple and family counselors were my immediate colleagues. We all share ethical principles and protocols, then we have distinct to similar expertise that help us help our clients. And that variety and choice of art therapist, counselor or social worker, is what people really appreciate when they seek out therapy, and they benefit when a professional is a hybrid of two or more professions, specialties or perspectives. I have had a few clients who really did not want to do art therapy. They wanted to talk and that’s fine, but I would always share with them how my power to help them truly resided in my knowledge base from art therapy, and the action-orientation of creativity and materials use. Eventually all clients I have worked with have used art therapy materials and techniques to minimal or maximized capacities.

RP: Where do you see creative arts therapies going in the future?

NC: Personally, I feel there is a lot of potential for expansion. There has always been waxing and waning public funding available for medical and psychiatric treatment, however, there’s been a gradual defunding now being accelerated in the current political climate. Traditionally, creative arts therapists have many jobs in medical and other settings, but I have vision for us continually expanding beyond strict or narrow models of therapy. It has already started, but I see even more opportunity in juvenile justice advocacy, nonprofit work, community engagement projects, college counseling and school-based creative arts therapy. Schools are a complicated mixture of systems, but there are more and more art therapists collaborating with special education teachers in integrated classrooms. Ideas of what therapy is are continually expanding into private and public spheres.

RP: I think people are stressed out, having trouble and struggling and they don’t understand why.

NC: There are huge stigmas around mental health issues, so people think they should be ashamed of vulnerabilities and deal with them on their own. Stigmas can prevent individuals, families and communities from seeking support, and they can exist within mental health communities and be perpetuated by mental health practitioners. Stigmas against seeking support can often generate from adults and not young people. For example, youth would walk up to me in my small community and often introduce me to a family member or friend as their art therapist. Three youth reportedly had a full on compare and contrast conversation about me as their art therapist in a middle school choral class.

Back to where I see emerging edges forming in art therapy. One of my areas of interest is digital media use in art therapy and that is something I would like to bring more of to Drexel. I envision bringing more new materials use to class projects and learning, but also have specialty classes on how to use digital media more in-depth with clients. Historically those of us interested in using technology in therapy learned the techniques on our own and from each other. There are a few programs just beginning to teach digital media skills as expanded media choices. Digital media applications will not take over the other fine art and craft materials applications, but will simply keep expanding the palate of what’s available for clients. I imagine this as exciting interdisciplinary work between our department and College, and with other programs within Drexel. Healthcare and digital media have a huge future as does education and digital literacy and media use. Drexel certainly has the resources and the ability to both research and educate in these expanding areas. I just wrote a chapter for a book edited by Ricky Garner titled, Digital Art Therapy, where I talk about the current developments in digital media and what that could mean for art therapy and humanity. I would love to see discussions and interdisciplinary work of that nature at Drexel University.

RP: I can’t even wrap my head around what that is.

NC: A simple example would be how a teenager might lose a friend to unexpected death and does a R.I.P music video as a remembrance or to share with others. They might record a rap or poem they write and set it to music, add visual imagery and all done with the computer in a session or series of sessions. The imagery and music can be created by the youth, made collaboratively with others, or containing mixed and ‘sampled’ materials from the Internet.

RP: So, digital media use could be combined elements of music, video, and visual art resources and creativity?

Yes. Digital media are hardware such as computers and digital devices, they are tools within creative mediums and specific software, and then they are also platforms or social media streams and communication options. There are many digital media techniques and applications that art therapists are beginning to use in sessions and contained within the boundaries of client and therapist work, while some projects and materials use are beginning to go out of traditional therapy bounds. For instance, there’s a photo site where adults with intellectual disabilities have started amassing photographs and self-stories to represent themselves rather than the world talking about them in the third person. They are saying, ‘this is us. This is me. This is me looking through my camera lens and my identity.’ They are reclaiming their own imagery production and dissemination, their thoughts, group to individual drives, and a “culture” of belonging. They have not done this work necessarily in therapy sessions but such projects represent beautifully the bigger truths I have been taught by similar types of people in therapy and caring communities. Self-representation is often where people reveal their inner brilliance and community drives, besides what others may see as “disability” from the outside. Building creative products in digital media is one element to conceive of in art therapy use, but how greater communications and advocacy may be shared with purpose and intention is another area still developing.

RP: What are your specific plans besides introducing a digital art therapy track, program or class?

NC: It wouldn’t be a track, just more learning about its benefits and challenges in our current and expanding course. There is not a lot infused in current class content, but we are developing ideas for the near future. We need additional hardware and software choices for students to experiment with and more ability and opportunities to integrate it into clinical skills.

RP: How do you want to expand the program beyond that?

NC: A digital art therapy specialties course is a future goal as well as yearly digital media symposia that bring together international and interdisciplinary work between creative arts therapies, film makers, video gamers, educators, and digital media engineers, programmers and designers. Additionally, my attention is on how the Art therapy and Counseling program will implement and sustain immediate content growth. Educational competencies and outcomes are being standardized across all US programs accredited by our national American Art Therapy Association (AATA). The content growth is a potent mixture of art therapy standards raising expectations on teaching inclusion skills and diversity awareness and social justice and advocacy, and our larger departmental implementation of PAR recommendations. Our current “dual degree” of the Masters of Art therapy and Counseling requires us to carefully track counseling requirements and related core competencies, as well as those articulated for art therapy national board certification. Right now, myself and many faculty are rewriting the CAT curriculum and I’m getting to know better my faculty teams, creating collaborative ideas about what’s working and what’s not, implementing some of the changes now in the short term and definitely redesigning for an improved overall program in a couple years. It’s a huge collage puzzle I’m working on and with the positive collaboration I am experiencing here, I feel suited to do it.

I am also discovering that what makes our CAT program distinct and what makes us special is the depth and breadth of this integrated department. That critically includes our counseling faculty and integrated creative arts therapies programs.

RP: What else do you think is really special about what you see at Drexel?

NC: The immediate exposure to practicum and internship clinical work for our incoming cohorts. When students first come here, they start their practicum right away so they’re both taking classes full-time and experiencing clinical work simultaneously, and there’s some variety in that practicum and internship experiences. Also, as I mentioned before, the parallel trainings and advancing integrations of dance/movement, music, art and counseling professions make this a distinct program. Some programs add counseling by name, but they’re not necessarily hiring people that are experts in their fields or adding quality counseling methods, literature and research to their course content. How I see our program, especially in the future, is much better integrated to suit the professional needs of our students who are competing for and fulfilling a variety of jobs. We’re really trying to prepare people for a swath of different job possibilities. I think another distinct quality for this program is its foundations in counseling, psychology and multi-professional clinical language — so our burgeoning students can present at grand rounds, to psychiatrists, doctors, social workers and nurses and be coherent in what they’re saying about their work with clients. We have our own distinct languages in creative arts therapies, but we also know how to speak the professional languages of others.

03/28/17

by Roberta Perry
 
The history of Creative Arts Therapies (CAT) programs at Drexel is long and rich with interesting people, philosophies and success. Myra Levick arrived at Hahnemann Medical College in 1967 to develop a graduate art therapy program, and this evolved into a dream that it would evolve to encompass art, music and dance/movement therapies as the robust educational, research and clinical department that it is today. Now offering three master’s and one doctoral degree and taking on research projects like “The Impact of Music Listening on Cortical Brain Structures Associated with Emotional Self-Regulation in US” funded by the GRAMMY and “A Model of Dance/Movement Therapy for Resilience in People with Chronic Pain: A Mixed Methods Grounded Theory Study” funded by the Marian Chace Foundation, CNHP’s CAT department is one of the preeminent in the country.
 
Creative arts therapies have a profound impact for those with difficult and often debilitating physical, emotional and developmental challenges. Using the creative arts therapies in conjunction with traditional treatments for traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, physical disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic illnesses and mental health challenges has shown positive outcomes for patients. A study being conducted by Kendra Ray, board certified music therapist and CNHP doctoral student, has shown that after only two weeks of music therapy, symptoms of depression for nursing home residents suffering from dementia decreased by 38 percent. Girija Kaimal, EdD’s research with the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center shows that encouraging active duty service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to create art, specifically paper-mâché masks, creates a visual community for them and helps guide treatment as it gives therapists an understanding of military experience from the service member’s perspective.
 
With a department of 12 resident faculty, and active clinical practices in Parkway Health & Wellness of Drexel University, the CNHP’s CAT programs have come quite a long way since Drs. Levick, Israel Zwerling, Dianne Dulicai, and Cynthia Briggs brought their initial vision to fruition in the 1970s. The creative arts therapies are being used more than ever in addressing and preventing formidable societal and health concerns. To continue to bring awareness to CAT, the National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (NCCATA) has declared one week in March Creative Arts Therapies Week  to celebrate and share the work that these therapists do to help so many individuals.
CNHP doctoral student and board certified dance/movement therapist Eri Millrod and alumnus Andy Freedman organized a creative arts therapies day on Wednesday, March 22, at Princeton House Behavioral Health Conference Center where Millrod and Freeman work. This event was created to demonstrate how CAT is very effective as part of a multidisciplinary approach to treating adults, adolescents and children with mental health issues. Millrod and Freedman, a board certified music therapist, have seminars scheduled for art therapy (What it is and What it is Not), dance/movement therapy (Intersection of Creativity and Mindfulness) and music therapy (Music Therapy on a Women’s Trauma Unit).
 
Researchers at CNHP will continue to study the effects of creative arts therapies on stress, chronic pain and illness and PTSD and brain injuries and the CAT faculty will continue to offer their students the best clinical education possible. As the population continues to grow and age and the world gets more complex, the healing these specially-trained therapists and research these investigators offer will be crucial in dealing with the mounting stress that people feel every day.
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