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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.

Programs

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

 

03/28/17

By Roberta Perry
 
Natalie Carlton, PhD is the new director of graduate art therapy programs and associate professor in the Creative Arts Therapies Department. This Temple University graduate studied fine art and visual anthropology, and while she identified herself as an artist, she wasn’t one who sought 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 since she describes it as “exploring concepts of what people would call outside the academy — outside of what is considered fine art.
 
Early on, Carlton developed an appreciation for folk art, craft art and artists that “the old languages would call persons who were insane who created art work.” She was drawn to and identified with artists and ideas that seem to come from the outside the established norm. “I found that art very exciting, very enlivening to the person who was making it,” said Carlton. Art therapy afforded her exposure to people who were creating art with tools that proved very versatile whether talking about children, people with mental illnesses, adults with intellectual disabilities and families who may face challenges. Carlton found these tools helped develop an interesting exchange or conversation with one another.
 
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. Art therapy seems so simple, but once you get into it, it’s complex. It’s a lot more than people just expressing emotions through an image. It’s a lot more than just being able to “read images” and know things about people and being able to help them. It’s a phenomena beyond both those things. It’s about collaboration. It’s about cultures and differences coming together and not melting into one another, but remaining distinct even.
I’ve done a lot of work with youth, youth coming out of incarceration, youth of color and mixed racial identification and it’s been very powerful work. Using art as a therapy tool is not always the vehicle, per se, a lot of it is how being a creative person has made me able to interact with a large variety of people and to have a certain authenticity, a certain realness, and a certain give and take, respect and humility. This is what being a creative person has brought me and these are very powerful tools when it comes to going into the different situations we call therapy.
 
RP: I believe I have a misconception of how it works. Is it more than drawing a picture? How does it work?
 
NC: Part of the complication is that it works at different levels and it works differently for different people. So it’s hard to answer that 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.
 
They would come to my private practice art therapy studio. I would sign them in, explain how Medicaid works, insurance and all that kind of stuff. Some of them know I’m an art therapist, some of them don’t, they just know I take insurance and I have a good reputation, so that’s why they were coming to me — more functional. I’d disclose my training, then show them a little about what this is.” If a young person and a parent come in to focus on the child’s behaviors at school, I would listen then look at stress in the family, how the family is absorbing it or deflecting that situation. I’d want to ask what they think the right or wrong thing to do is trying to understand the valuation all the while I’d have them each do a personal symbol drawing. Depending on the age of the child, his or hers might be on multiple pieces of paper or maybe something spontaneous they might have drawn anyway. With the parent, it might be more about, “Hey I want to get to know you.” Symbols go into what we carry, what we represent, what we hold and our value systems. I’m asking a lot of rapid-fire questions if they can tolerate it, if they can’t I have to retitrate it. But basically, I’m trying to get to “this is the situation, this is your system around it and where do you see the therapy intervening?”
 
Medicaid wants me to just diagnose the child and increase or decrease behaviors, but art therapy, my version of art therapy, looks at the relationship, resources and strengths while doing a differential diagnosis ascertaining if the issue is an organic or situational stressor. I’m trying to diagnose, build a relationship and sort of let people know, “Hey personal symbols, they kind of have this meaning.” When they draw this mountain side and this river and then tell me all the values, and all the memories and all the cultural truth of that, at the end of 50 minutes, I know that person in a way that would be very different had we just talked. I guarantee you.
 
The art becomes a vehicle of just bringing that expression forward. If I had time, or at the next session, I might have those same people do a drawing together. I might have the child initiate the drawing then the parent initiate it to see how they collaborate, cooperate, or if one tends to dominate the other. We’re finding answers to problems through the back door.
 
RP: How do you get kids to open up?
 
NC: A kid might be belligerent with the creative arts therapist, but we know how to handle that. Words get him or her all tied up. Feelings are complicated. It’s never the thing I’ll ask anybody to do—draw your feelings which is a very complicated, abstract notion. Feelings get expressed through things. I had a child who was a perfectionist, but really creative. He had a lot of grief because his parents were going through a divorce. His grief was him trying to fix the world through objects, but it was this larger emotional grief and his need for protection. I remember him doing a drawing with the erasure, and he just got so frustrated, but I let him go there because we had been together a long time. He collapsed and he cried. I sat beside him. You just validate them. I said something age appropriate and he was able to say, “I get really sad.” We worked together for months and months and months. The mother had acknowledged that he might feel like this, but he never claimed it until that moment when he really told a truth.
 
Sometimes young people don’t have this emotional language—what does sad mean. They aren’t hiding anything and they’re not dumb. They actually act it out. When you’re doing something that’s activated with young people, you see it. They get frustrated easily but you ask, “Does this happen at school or at home?”  So it becomes this approximate. It’s like playing with this new version and you start seeing if they can begin to shift things.
 
RP: Do people often worry that they don’t know how to draw when they go to art therapy?
 
NC: Yes and even dance/movement, people hear that and say ‘I’m not a dancer.’ We are just taking basic things from the form. It’s not about drawing well, it’s about diagraming out what happened, thoughts, behaviors, or a plan. For people who don’t draw or create every day, we have to break it down—what is creativity, what are art materials, what’s the impact of the materials like fabric versus ink versus clay versus sand? 
 
I’m teaching clients and family members and collaborators about art material choices and their impacts, identifying if they’re relaxing, creating anxiety or making you push through things that frustrate you. I’m asking, “Does this express what you need to express?” Young people so often don’t have a solid hour with somebody when they’re shutting the door and turning off their phones. That and the consistency of a weekly appointment in and of itself, can be so supportive, so healing. When the parent takes the child to counseling or therapy it puts him or her in place of support. The parent is bringing and picking up the child, she or he is collaborating with the therapist and the child. That shakes up the dynamic and I think it helps put a frame around difficult things. You know, nine times out of ten, the family is going through something challenging—that’s why the child is struggling.
 
It’s detective work and it’s very relational. I’ve seen people use art materials to do incredible things, but I really do think that most of the power lies in the relationship and the lessons learned about having a more creative mind. Sometimes, when kids are with me for 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 work with it in a way that gives them more power.
 
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’re actually embracing the truth rather than denying it. Therapy can be like that—dropping cow patties into the family dynamic. 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’ve talked about her without talking about it. 
 
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 them—what does he need, does she have preferences, interests, boundaries—what are his or her needs at the moment. I also know based somewhat on patterns and having worked previously with these situations. Again, the truth is often very contextual, but there are patterns out there. 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. I’m going to try to de-stimulate that child and create a lot of structure versus another child who is more shut down, maybe experiencing an emotional trauma. I’m going to tempt his senses. I’m going to leave out a pile of fabric and see what he does with that.
 
Our degree title is art therapy and counseling adding another identity to the mix. It’s been a preoccupation amongst creative arts therapist—are we therapist or counselors? For me, the integration kind of happens over time, with work experience and definitely collaborating with other therapists. In Taos, New Mexico where I worked there was only one other art therapist, no music or dance/movement therapists, so I’ve worked directly with counselors, social workers. We all share ethical principles and protocols, then we have these expertise that help us help our clients. And that variety and that choice is what people really appreciate when they seek out therapy. I’ve had a few clients who really didn’t want to do art therapy. They just wanted to talk and that’s fine, but my power really resides in my knowledge base from art therapy. 
 
RP: Where do you see creative art therapy going?
 
NC: Personally, I feel there is a lot of potential for expansion. There had always been funding available for medical and psycho-pharmaceuticals, however for a decade now, there’s been a gradual defunding now being accelerated in the current political climate. Traditionally, we’ve had jobs in medical settings, but I really see the creative arts therapies expanding beyond the clinic and the medical model. It’s already started, but I see even more opportunity in juvenile justice advocacy, nonprofits, college counseling. I see art therapists working in schools. They are a complicated mixture of systems, but there are more and more art therapists collaborating with special education teachers in integrated classrooms. The whole idea of what is therapy in the future is going to be very expansive. Creative art therapy is going to extend more out into the public sphere.
 
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 can deal with it on their own. It’s funny, people who are supposed to have the worst stigmas have the least in my experience and vice versa. The stigma so often comes from adults and not young people. For example, someone will walk up to me in the middle of the grocery store and introduce me as his or her art therapist. Kids are talking about me in the choral class. 
 
Back to where I see this going. One of my areas of interest is digital media in art therapy and that’s something I would like to bring to Drexel. We have specialty classes on how to use digital media within art therapy, but a lot of us have to learn it on our own and from each other. There’s very few programs that teach how to integrate digital media. It’s not taking over the other medium materials, it’s expanding the palate of what’s available. I think this will be very exciting interdisciplinary work between our College and other colleges at Drexel. Healthcare and digital media has a huge future and Drexel certainly has the resources and the ability to connect that. I just wrote a chapter for a book, Digital Art Therapy, where I talk about the expanding nature of the material methods and applications. I would love to see more of that here.
 
RP: I can’t even wrap my head around what that is.
 
NC: It’s cool. A simple example—a teenager loses a friend and does a R.I.P music video for that friend. They record a rap, set it to music all done in the computer. Then we shoot video.
 
RP: So it could be music, video, art. 
 
It’s hardware, the medium and materials, then it’s the platforms. There are all sorts of things art therapists are beginning to use in the session and contained to the session, then some things are going out of 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 cool through my camera lens.’ They are reclaiming their imagery, their thoughts, their drives, and their culture. Building it is one thing, but how you share is another thing and with the digital media, like I said, there’s the hardware and also the platforms that are good for communication and dissemination. 
 
RP: What are your specific plans besides introducing a digital art therapy track, program, class?
 
NC: It wouldn’t be a track, just more learning about it in the classroom. There’s not a lot. We’re not set up in our classrooms to teach it at this point. We need a little bit of hardware and more ability to integrate it. 
 
RP: How do you want to expand the program beyond that?
 
NC: A digital art therapy track is an element, but the program is going through huge growth right now. Educational competencies and outcomes are being standardized across all programs. It’s a mixture of art therapy standards raising the game on teaching multicultural awareness, social justice and advocacy. It expands into counseling and core competencies for counselors as well as art therapy. Right now, I’m rewriting the curriculum and I’m also getting to know my faculty, creating collaborative ideas about what’s working and what’s not, implementing some of the changes now in the short term and definitely implementing a much different program in a couple years. It’s a huge collage puzzle I’m working on and I feel suited to do it.
 
I’m discovering what makes us distinct and what makes us special is the depth and breadth of this program. That’s including the counseling faculty. We’re really trying to integrate counseling, art therapy, social justice and advocacy. That’s three major things really coming together.
 
RP: What do you think is really special about what you see at Drexel?
 
NC: The immediate exposure to work. When students first come here, they start their practicum right away so they’re taking classes full-time for two years, but they’re in practicum and internship for two years as well and there’s some variety in that practicum and internship experience. The intersection of the dance/movement, music and art and the counseling being integrated into a core concept, common core is what we call it, make this a distinct program. Some programs add counseling by name, but they’re not necessarily hiring people that are experts in their fields. How I see our program, especially in the future, is much better integrated and I think it will really suit the professional needs of our students who are trying to find jobs. We’re really trying to prepare people for a swath of different job possibilities. I think another distinct thing about this program is its foundations—counseling, psychology and multi-language—so our burgeoning students can present at grand rounds, to psychiatrists, doctors and nurses and be coherent in what they’re saying about their work with clients. We teach them the multi-language of mental health. We have our own distinct language, but we also know how to speak the language 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.

02/16/17

On January 11, US News and World Report published their 2017 Best Jobs list and 52 of the top 100 are in health care. Nurse practitioner and physician assistant are number two and three on that list with no surprise as the demand for more skilled health care professionals skyrockets. Susannah Snider, personal finance editor at U.S. News said in a press release about the jobs list, "Health care jobs often require a human element, so they can't be exported or entirely replaced by robots – at least not yet.
 
“Continued growth in the health care sector, low unemployment rates and high salaries make these jobs especially desirable. Plus, individuals can pursue a range of health care positions that require varying levels of skill and education," furthered Snider. While the opportunities for PAs and NPs expand practically every specialty — orthopedics, endocrinology, cardiology, pediatrics — a reported 80% of nurse practitioners choose primary care whereas a study from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) states physician assistants tend to practice outside of primary care. 
 
Regardless of the position a person chooses, it’s all good news for CNHP. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics cited nurse practitioner and physician assistant among the fastest growing occupations with 35% and 30% growth respectively. This expansion can be attributed to a few factors including a move to patient-centered care models and an aging population. But another reason is the expansion of coverage for an additional 20 million people through Affordable Care Act. “The ACA recognized physician assistants as an essential part of the solution to the primary care shortage by formally acknowledging them as one of the three primary care health providers,” said Patrick Auth, PhD, MS, PA-C, CNHP clinical professor and department chair. “They also committed to expanding the number of PAs by providing financial support for scholarships and loan forgiveness programs, as well as by funding the training of 600 new PAs,” he continued.
 
“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed millions of Americans to have access to insurance to pay for the cost of their health care. That meant hospitals and providers reduced their cost of indigent care.  While these figures have presented a hopeful outlook on what new health care reform may mean, one recent report has portrayed a potentially much different outcome.
 
The study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund revealed repealing the ACA, likely starting with the insurance premium tax credits and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility would result in a doubling in the number of uninsured Americans while having widespread economic and employment impacts. In 2019, the study predicts a loss of 2.6 million jobs nation-wide, primarily in the private sector, with around a third of them in the health care industry. Pennsylvania could see around 137,000 jobs lost. 
 
Elizabeth W. Gonzalez, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, associate professor and department chair of the doctoral nursing program and Kymberlee Montgomery, DrNP, CRNP-BC, CNE ’09, associate clinical professor and department chair of the nurse practitioner program, both suggest that it is too early to tell what any real impact will be to healthcare or employment. “The ACA also lowered Medicare spending by allowing people to enter into share savings plans with accountable care organizations where providers are reimbursed based on the quality, not the quantity, of their services,” Gonzalez said. “This emphasis on quality has resulted in significant savings, lower cost of health care for seniors, individuals with disabilities, low income families, and children. The ACA encourages a focus on the patient experience and this has led to some wonderful innovations because clinicians are being paid to focus on ways to enhance the quality of the care they provide patients,” she added. 
 
“The Affordable Care Act introduced patients to the role of the nurse practitioner. Patients were forced to see us for primary care — nurse practitioners provided care at a lower cost,” stated Montgomery. “Now patients want to see us because of the level of care we provided.” There are just so many unknowns where the ACA is concerned. While the current administration seems determined to repeal the law, they haven’t yet put forth a replacement that will provide affordable healthcare for those who would undoubtedly lose what they currently have. It’s uncertain whether a new law might be proposed that would guarantee that no jobs created under the ACA are lost or if patient outcomes will decline.” But both Gonzalez and Montgomery feel that advanced practice nursing will continue to be a cost effective way to deliver outstanding clinical services. While it’s tough to speculate, Montgomery thinks opportunities for nurse practitioners will continue to grow regardless. “Who knows, it might make it better for the nurse practitioner especially because we provide high-quality, comprehensive care at lower costs,” she said.

By: Roberta Perry and Kinzey Lynch `17

 
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