The success of Lesley University’s groundbreaking Expressive Therapies program is a living example that taking strength from conflict and “doing the unthinkable” can lead to great things.
That was the message the founders of the program embraced during a one-day conference at Lesley where they enabled professionals to unlock their personal creativity to help lead others in more imaginative and constructive ways.
Using music, drawing and other artistic media, Lesley Professor Shaun McNiff and Dr. Paolo Knill led 102 participants in a series of activities and discussions as part of “Liberating Creativity” a conference held on Aug. 26.
“We did things here that are unthinkable,” said McNiff, who established Lesley’s arts therapy program in the1970s. “To be a 26-year-old kid and start a graduate program, one where all the arts were integrated? No one did that anywhere, truly.”
McNiff and Knill challenged the leaders at the conference to take risks, let go of inhibitions, accept vulnerability and witness and support others.
“As artists, we know when we make a painting we are getting into a relationship with that painting,” said Knill, Professor Emeritus at Lesley and a founding faculty member of Lesley’s integrated arts graduate programs. “And similarly, when we lead as artists or when we lead an organization, we have to notice where it wants to go and follow it – and that makes it very different.”
McNiff and Knill hailed the supportiveness of the therapeutic learner community, and frequently drew on their experiences as pioneers in the field of Expressive Therapies.
“It evolves – a new organization, a new painting, a new dance,” Knill said. “And new doesn’t mean the old one is bad. It means it’s a life. It liberates itself from us as leaders.”
Other Lesley University faculty who facilitated the conference included Vivien Marcow Speiser, Division Director of National, International and Collaborative Programs in Lesley’s Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences (GSASS), and Mitchell Kossak, Division Director of Expressive Therapies at GSASS.
“I know wherever I go, this work is expanding,” said Kossak. “The numbers of people who want to do this work is probably at its real growth point right now.”
“We have come full circle since our beginnings in 1974,” added Marcow Speiser, “and we continue to play a pioneering role in the generation of arts-based initiatives that aid the common good.”
The conference, held on Lesley’s Brattle Campus in Washburn Hall, was offered by the Continuing Education Program at GSASS in conjunction with the Graduate Certificate Program in Creativity, Leadership and Social Change.
Paolo Knill advised, “When we lead as artists or when we lead an organization, we have to notice where it wants to go and follow it.”
Lesley University is a trailblazer in the field of Expressive Therapies. One of the largest, most influential of its kind, Lesley’s Expressive Therapies program connects the arts, theory and clinical training to teach students to engage others in the healing process through the therapeutic use of the arts.
Shaun McNiff has authored many books including Trust the Process, Art as Medicine, Art Heals, Art-Based Research, and his recent Integrating the Arts in Therapy. He has received numerous honors and awards for his work including the Honorary Life Member Award of the American Art Therapy Association, and he was appointed as the first University Professor at Lesley in 2002. Recently he helped initiate Lesley’s program in Advanced Graduate Studies in Creativity, Imagination, and Leadership.
Paolo Knill is Provost of the European Graduate School and he teaches and performs internationally. He founded the International Network of Expressive Arts Therapy Training Centers and the ISIS European training institutes, and has worked to extend psychotherapy beyond traditional clinical boundaries into the realms of expression and art.
Serving others through the Creative Process
The major in Art Therapy is designed for students interested in using art to further the well-being of others. In addition to art therapy courses, the program includes minors in visual art and psychology. Students are prepared for entry level positions in various human services settings, such as mental health clinics, hospitals, child care programs, schools, and community organizations. The major is designed to meet the requirements for a professional master’s degree program in Art Therapy and/or Expressive Therapies.
Students who demonstrate a high level of maturity and academic potential are eligible to apply for the Dual Degree Program: BA/MA in Art Therapy.
The professional major in Art Therapy is designed for students interested in using art modalities in working with adults and children in a variety of settings. It prepares studentsfor entry-level positions in a number of human services settings, such as social service agencies, childcare programs or specialized school programs, and other community settings. It is also designed to prepare students for entry into a professional Master’s degree program in Art Therapy and/or Expressive Art Therapies. This major combines pre-professional courses in the human services with substantial coursework in psychology and an Art minor. Students
will complete over 400 hours in the field.
Post Baccalaureate Option
Master of Arts/Expressive Therapies
AIB BFA students who successfully complete their program, and who have taken certain prerequisite courses in art therapy and psychology, may apply to Lesley University’s Master of Art in Expressive Therapies program. If accepted they proceed to two years of graduate study that enables them to be licensed as art/expressive therapists.
The Dual Degree Program in Art Therapy is an honors program designed for exceptional students. The integrated B.S./M.A. program is developed for Lesley University students who are interested in accelerating their educational experience in a program combining the curriculum of the undergraduate art therapy major and a graduate program in Art Therapy and Mental Health Counseling.
The program is designed for students who demonstrate a high level of maturity and academic potential. Essentially an honors program, the integrated program demands that students be able to achieve the academic rigor of graduate education by the time they reach their junior year of traditional undergraduate study. Students in this accelerated program must be able to achieve a level of introspection and cultural awareness necessary to engage in clinical work at a relatively young chronological age. Qualified students apply in the fall of their junior year and must be accepted for admission into the Expressive Therapies Division, Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences. This deadline may be altered for students who transfer to Lesley University.