Program Requirements 

The Master’s in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy is a BBS-approved, three-year, low-residency degree program for California residents.

Classes are taught online in asynchronous and virtual synchronous formats. Students are expected to attend an in-person, one-week intensive, held at the start of each fall and spring semester on CIIS’ Mission Street campus.

Course lessons and online discussions require responses through writing, video and audio recordings, image sharing, and playlist creations. Synchronous virtual clinical practice weekends are scheduled two to four times during the semester depending on coursework. Students work in clinical practice dyads and small groups to deliver collaborative assignments. 

Students can choose between the full-time three-year option, or a part-time option, which completes the program in five-and-a-half years.

Intensive Arts-Based Seminar
Students, faculty, and advisors come together in residential seminars to engage in extensive, experiential, and intermodal arts-based learning. Up to a third of the coursework for the semester is completed in person, with the remaining coursework delivered in combined asynchronous, and occasional virtual synchronous learning formats to support clinical skill development.

Ongoing Arts Practice
Students are required to engage in an ongoing practice in an arts modality of their choice by the summer of their first year; arts practice continues throughout the remainder of the program. To encourage depth of involvement, students are required to complete at least one year in a single modality. The arts practice may involve class instruction or working with a mentor. Students are required to acquire the appropriate materials and have access to sufficient space in which to work with them.

Personal Psychotherapy Requirement 
Students are required to complete 50 hours of personal psychotherapy with a licensed mental health professional (ideally an Expressive or Creative Arts Therapist).

Course of Study

Hybrid MFT Track (60 units total) 

Semester 1 | Fall
EXA 5501 Psychotherapy Theories and Practices (3 units)
EXA 6036 History and Foundations of EXA Therapy (2 units)
MCPE 6604 Multicultural Counseling and the Therapeutic Relationship (3 units)
EXAL 5602 Therapeutic Communication Lab (1 unit)
MCPE 5201 Human Development and the Family (3 units)

Semester 2 | Spring 
EXA 6064 Psychological Assessment and Creative Arts Therapy (3 units)
EXA 6088 EXA Approaches: Module I (1 unit)
MCPE 5634 Group Dynamics and Therapy (3 units)
MCP 5108 Psychopathology & Psychological Assessment (3 units)
MCP 6106 Human Sexuality (1 unit) OR MCP 6102 Assessment and Treatment of Addiction Disorders (1 units)

Semester 3 | Fall 
EXA 6089 EXA Approaches: Module II (1 unit)
MCPE 5606 Family & Couples Dynamics I (3 units)
MCPE 6403 Research Methods (3 units)
MCP 6502 Child Therapy (2 units)
MCP Intro to Community Mental Health & Recovery Model (2 units)

Semester 4 | Spring
MCP 5105 Professional Ethics and Family Law (2 units)
EXA 6055 The Arts in Therapy (3 units)
EXA 6618 EXA Approach: Narrative Expressive Arts and the Family (2 units)
MCPE 6606 Family & Couples Dynamics II (3 units)
MCP 6101 Human Sexuality (1 unit) OR MCP 6102 Assessment and Treatment of Addiction and Disorders (1 unit)

Semester 5 | Fall
MCPE 7604A Supervised Clinical Practicum Group (3 units)
EXA 5993 Expressive Arts Therapy Integrative Seminar I (1 unit)
EXA 6090 EXA Approaches Module III (1 unit)
EXA 6020 EXA & Trauma (3 units)

Semester 6 | Spring
MCPE 7604B Supervised Clinical Practicum Group (3 units)
EXA 5994 Expressive Arts Therapy Integrative Seminar II (2 units)
EXA 6853 Professional Development (1 units)
EXA 609 EXA Approaches Module IV (1 unit)

The Master’s in Counseling Psychology with a Concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy degree program meets the educational requirements for MFT licensure in the state of California, and LPCC in the state of California with additional optional units. After graduation, students must complete a supervised internship and pass the MFT licensing examination before becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist. This process takes, on average, 3 to 5 years.

CIIS is one of the largest educators of MFTs, and is also the leader in pass rates among larger schools in California.


The Expressive Arts Therapy program includes a year-long practicum under the supervision of licensed mental health professionals. 

Completion of the practicum requirement includes attendance in weekly classes plus 16-24 hours per week of documented training at an approved site. You must complete a minimum of 225 qualifying BBS hours during practicum training to qualify for graduation for MFT and a minimum of 280 qualifying BBS hours for LPCC. 

While you are expected to pursue your own practicum placements, our Field Placement office assists in providing resources and support for finding the right practicum site for you.

Curriculum Highlights

The principles of liberation psychology and relational-cultural theory provide overarching theoretical frameworks for the curriculum. The Expressive Arts Therapy program also provides you with foundational knowledge and skills of the major schools of psychotherapy through multicultural and feminist lenses.

EXA 5501 Psychotherapy Theories & Practice (3 units)
This is an introduction to traditional and contemporary theories and practices of psychotherapy. We begin by situating the field in relation to its sociocultural, historical, and Indigenous roots. We go on to examine psychodynamic, Jungian, existential-humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, and collaborative approaches integrating feminist and multicultural perspectives, addressing intersections with the recovery model. Creative arts-based case examples for various approaches are woven into the fabric of the class. 

EXA 6020 EXA & Trauma (3 units)
This advanced-level class focuses on developing an understanding of what trauma is and how it functions on individual, community, and collective levels. You will critically explore theories and practical responses to the affective, cognitive, behavioral, neurological effects associated with trauma and crisis counseling. You will develop an advanced understanding of DSM definitions of trauma, differential diagnosis, and evidenced-based treatment strategies. You will additionally learn how to explore the ways that expressive arts and somatic psychotherapies can be effective as interventions in helping clients to recover from trauma.

MCPE 5606 & MCPE 6606 Family & Couples Dynamics I & II (3 units)
This two-part course surveys a broad range of contemporary theories and practices within the field of family and couples therapy and their application in working with LGBT and heterosexual couple and family constellations across diverse cultures. You will be introduced to major contemporary approaches within the field, including structural, strategic, narrative, solution-focused, symbolic-experiential, EFT, and the Gottman Method. The course includes modules addressing issues related to blended families, interpersonal violence, migration stressors, divorce and separation, addiction, and illness. You will learn how to integrate the use of visual arts, music, movement, drama, and the language arts in family and couples therapy practice.

Questions? Contact us.

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