The Expressive Arts Therapy program educates and trains the future leaders of the Expressive Arts Therapy field. We use the power of the arts as tools for human development & healing, psycho-spiritual growth, social change, and empowered self-agency.  This is accomplished through an innovative Scholar-Artist-Practitioner model bridging gaps between academic knowledge, clinical practice, and community engagement with the arts at the center. Our faculty considers each student to be a unique contributor to the learning community due to their diverse backgrounds, experience, and interests.

Have the arts ever helped you through an emotional or life crisis? Have you ever used activities such as creative writing, painting, pottery, singing, dancing, or improv acting to feel a greater sense of aliveness? Are you looking for a career where you can integrate your passion for the arts with your desire for personal, relational, and systemic healing and social change? YES?!! Check out this video of the Expressive Arts Therapy Program's online info session to learn more!

A Comprehensive Training in Counseling and Psychotherapy

The Expressive Arts Therapy program integrates a thorough education in theories and methods of psychotherapy with intensive training in expressive arts therapy and counseling psychology. This three-year full-time program covers individual, group, couples, and family therapy, and includes a year-long practicum under the supervision of licensed mental health professionals who are also expressive arts therapists. The training meets the educational requirements for California's Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) license and California's Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) license. This program is also designed to meet the educational requirements to become a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist (REAT) with the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA).

A Range of Theoretical Frameworks

The principles of liberation psychology and relational-cultural theory (RCT) provide overarching theoretical frameworks for the curriculum. The EXA program also provides students with foundational knowledge and skills of the major schools of psychotherapy through multicultural and feminist lenses. These include contemporary psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches; Jungian; existential-humanist; cognitive-behavioral; mindfulness-based; trauma-informed narrative and constructivist; as well as a range of family systems approaches.

The program places a high premium on sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs of the very diverse communities of the USA in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, differing abilities, and socioeconomic status. This is reflected in all aspects of the formal curriculum as well as in our approach to pedagogy in the classroom.

Experiential Learning

Hands-on training occurs in classes and weeklong, intensive residential seminars held in SF once per semester for students and faculty in both programs. New theoretical, experiential, and expressive arts skills are then integrated into the student's work and in their communities. Additionally, they will be visiting and interviewing practitioners in their communities.

The EXA program maintains partnerships with community organizations, including GLIDE's Family Youth & Child Center and Contra Costa Health Services' Art of Health and Healing Program. Students go through a formal selection process to participate in these programs.

CIIS EXA students typically complete their clinical fieldwork in the third year, beginning in the fall semester.

EXA Program Learning Outcomes

A dynamic program weaving the arts across the curriculum, enabling students to:

  • Demonstrate capacity to integrate a range of expressive arts practices into psychotherapy with individuals, couples, families, and groups; with sensitivity to differences including gender identification, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, differing abilities, socioeconomic status, and spiritual and religious practices
  • Translate expressive arts interventions and processes into standard psychological language, and vice versa
  • Articulate when expressive arts approaches are appropriate and when they may be contraindicated within particular clinical situations
  • Demonstrate capacity to weave together expressive arts and recovery-oriented principles and practices into treatment
  • Demonstrate personal growth and development through the use of expressive arts practices
  • Demonstrate ability to conceptualize and intervene holistically (addresses body, mind, and spirit)

Considering the EXA program? Got questions? Please contact our admissions counselor:
Skylar Hall

Photo Credit: EXA Banner Photos by LissaIvy Tiegel

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