Program Requirements 

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

At the start of each Fall and Spring semester, students participate in an in-person retreat for six days at a site in the Bay Area. The remainder of the semester, students participate in synchronous and asynchronous learning via a range of methods, including: video meetings, asynchronous online discussions, regular partner and group work, and individual assignments.

Students choose between a full-time three-year option or a part-time five-year option. Part-time students have reduced retreat schedules and fees after the first semester.

Ongoing Arts Practice

Throughout the program, all students commit to ongoing engagement with new or existing arts practices. First semester courses facilitate each person’s reflection and sharing the modalities with which they are familiar and exposure to new, less-explored areas. At the end of the first semester, each person outlines a practice plan which will promote their learning and preparation to become an expressive arts therapist. Plans are flexible and adaptive to respond to a student’s growth and changing needs over their time in the program. 

Students have the freedom to choose less formal, self-guided practices and/or those involving more structure such as: guided training/classes, presentations, publication, performances, etc. All costs and materials involved with a student’s individual arts practice are the sole responsibility of the student. 

Expressive Arts Therapy courses offer frequent opportunities for art-making, response art, and arts-based inquiry, where students can apply their arts practices and experiment with new ones. 

Personal Psychotherapy Requirement 

In order to graduate, students are required to complete 50 hours of personal psychotherapy with a mental health professional, ideally an Expressive or Creative Arts Therapist.

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 Master’s in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy includes required practicum training at a CIIS-approved community mental health site, where students provide clinical services to the public under the supervision of licensed mental health professionals.

Practicum takes place during a student’s final year and can last 9 to 12 months, depending on the site. Students typically work 16 to 24 hours per week at their practicum site, plus participate in advanced Expressive Arts Therapy coursework, including a weekly consultation group with other students and faculty. 

Students 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. 

The CIIS 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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