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The two-year, 60-credit Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Art Therapy program at SVA is interdisciplinary in approach, integrating the experiential components of art therapy practice within a comprehensive framework of academic theory and clinical application.

  • Students learn to adapt the creative process to the specific therapeutic needs of the individual, population and setting, with a consideration of how socio-political and cultural issues impact treatment.
  • SVA believes in active engagement with the community utilizing the diverse, multi-dimensional, artistic, and innovative atmosphere of NYC and beyond to enhance training.
  • The Department offers larger group information sessions and experiential workshops each year, as well as individual information sessions.


1. To have students understand the relationship between cognition, emotion and behavior within the person, and the relationship of these areas to art, diagnosis (including an understanding of the most recent edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and treatment.

2. To have students gain capacity for productive self-reflection, empathy, and insight to enhance clinical practice.

3. To have students develop critical thinking skills to question systems and theoretical and social constructs as well as challenging personal assumptions and biases.

4. To have students develop a distinctive and individual approach to art therapy practice based on their specific talents and style of working.

5. To have students develop as artists, gaining an experiential understanding of materials, process and product, as they relate to art therapy practice.

6. To have students develop an active leadership role, learning to advocate and collaborate in a professional setting.

7. To have students develop a professional level understanding of practices, ethical and legal standards, career strategies, and expectations of the field.

The MPS Art Therapy Program developed from a single undergraduate course in collaboration with the Bronx Psychiatric Center in New York City, over three decades ago. The undergraduate certificate program, guided by its founder, Estelle Bellomo, expanded and developed affiliations in a variety of settings and gained a reputation for excellence in both academic and clinical training. Subsequent changes in the field of art therapy made a master’s degree program the natural progression, which was initiated in 2001. The program is approved by the American Art Therapy Association, as well as New York State’s Department of Education and is an educational provider for the Licensure in Creative Art Therapy (LCAT) credential by the New York State Office of Professions, and as such meets the education standards of the art therapy profession.

Students are trained in the psychodynamic roots of the art therapy profession along with contemporary theories of human development, creativity, and related fields. Students analyze changes in physical, cognitive, artistic and social-emotional development across the lifespan. Courses work in tandem with two years of internship and special projects in clinical, academic, medical and community settings.

First year coursework involves training in fundamental theories, methods and evidence-based art therapy research. This includes an in-depth academic and experiential exploration of the therapeutic use of art materials with specific populations. The second year focuses on specialization, professional development and practical application. Students develop a clinically oriented thesis, which includes designing and conducting research that follows ethical guidelines. In addition, students choose from two specialization tracks: Addictionology or Trauma.

Complete course curriculum descriptions can be found here.

In the second year of study, students choose between two areas of specialization. Track selection informs the second year internship placement and is the focus of thesis work.

The Addictionology track explores neurobiology and its role in substance use and other addictive behaviors, the influence of attachment and trauma on capacities for self-regulation, and consequent reliance on chemical assistance and non-drug dependencies. The role of art therapy in promoting enhanced capacities for integration and communication among neural systems and networks, allowing for optimal self-regulation and overall functioning is stressed.

The Trauma track explores the nature and effects of interactions between the environment and physiology of the individual. The impacts of profound, event-related or shock trauma, as well as developmental, attachment-based, and strain trauma are examined throughout the life cycle. Students will understand the role of art therapy in promoting a sense of efficacy and mastery that offsets the learned helplessness acquired during traumatic experience, and reintroducing clients to experiences of pleasure and play in a safe and manageable way.

The internship, a core component of SVA art therapy training, is integrated into all academic coursework from the first semester of study, so that theory is consistently connected to practice. Students are required to complete an intensive 960 hours of on-site clinical work at two separate and diverse year long internships where they gain in-depth art therapy experience and professional training under the supervision of a licensed art therapist.

Affiliations with a wide range of prominent institutions and non-traditional sites in and around NYC ensure students are exposed to innovative advancements and current trends in art therapy, the fine art world and related fields. Through on-going individual consultation with a full-time internship coordinator, students select internships that correspond to their experience and SVA training standards while developing skills specific to seeking employment as an art therapist. Second year internships are based on track selection and are the focus of thesis work so that didactic material is reinforced by work in the field.

Students are expected to take an active role on-site and in supervision, developing leadership, advocacy and critical thinking skills. A fundamental part of internship training is considering the impact of socio-political issues, culture and power structures on treatment, as well as upholding the standards and ethical guidelines of the American Art Therapy Association, Art Therapy Credentials Board, and the New York State Education Department Office of Professions.

Students are given the opportunity to work in short term community-based settings beyond their internship, gaining exposure and hands-on experience with diverse client populations. Partnering with sites that do not offer art therapy services, students learn how to develop, advocate, educate and implement programming supervised by licensed, board-certified alumni or faculty. This further enhances their understanding of social constructs and how it impacts clinical work.

Select second year students comprise a team that provides art therapy services to undergraduate and graduate SVA students from other programs. Students are chosen for the team through an application and interview process at the beginning of the second year. The team of students augments their clinical skills by independently facilitating weekly one-on-one and group sessions.

In this study abroad program, an international location is used as a point of reference. The effects power, privilege and identity have on the therapeutic process are examined through immersion, internship work and supervision. Students consider culture on a broad level, exploring how social constructs, personal biases, assumptions and beliefs affect treatment, diagnosis and art-making.

Internship coursework includes participation in a client/student art exhibition held each spring at an SVA gallery in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC. Applying social action theory within an art therapy framework, students consider therapeutic goals and the role of art and the artist in a community context. Students and clients develop their identity as artists and examine the limitations of socially constructed labels and the impact of institutional policies.

The MPS Art Therapy program also offers 3- and 4-year part-time program options on a case-by-case basis.

The Department is invested in the professional development of its alumni. Free licensing workshops and board certification training, professional networking events, and employment opportunities are provided. Once credentialed, alumni have the opportunity to work closely with students as on-site supervisors, developing and facilitating Special Projects, lectures and workshops. Current alumni-run programs include the use of technology in art therapy settings and social action. Alumni consistently present their research at conferences and publish in professional journals.

Students and alumni are encouraged to develop their identity as artists. Drawing from the cultural richness of NYC and SVA’s faculty of renowned artists, workshops are offered in traditional techniques and cutting edge processes with discussions on clinical reasoning and their applicability to art therapy.

The Department is committed to the development and advancement of the field. Innovative and interdisciplinary in approach, the conference fosters a dialogue on a range of challenging and contemporary topics. The conference features speakers from diverse disciplines including art therapy, fine arts, psychology, academia, medical, political, and social activism.

The Department provides free ongoing education to art therapy students, art therapists, related professionals, and the general public to broaden community outreach and highlight the field. Topics include current research on the therapeutic use of the arts, advancing the clinical practice of art therapy.

The Department seeks dynamic, well-rounded applicants who demonstrate achievement in studio art, psychology, and community involvement. The program is emotionally and academically challenging; applicants are expected to prepare for the rigorous classroom and internship training.

- 12 credits in Psychology (Abnormal Psychology and Developmental Psychology are REQUIRED, Introduction to Psychology and Theories of Personality are recommended)
- 18 credits in Studio Art (a range of coursework, including Drawing, Painting, Sculpture/3D, Design, Mixed Media, Photography, Animation, Computer Art, and Film is recommended)

Relevant Experience
Applicants are expected to seek out relevant volunteer or work experience, ideally in an art therapy setting, to understand the professional expectations and realities of the field. This should include exposure to diverse populations and settings.

Applicants are expected to read art therapy books and academic articles and be prepared to discuss as they relate to their areas of interest.

Professional Organizations
Applicants are expected to familiarize themselves with the American Art Therapy Association, the official organization for art therapists in the United States; the Art Therapy Credentials Board, the credentialing organization for art therapists in the U.S.; the New York State Office of the Professions; as well as the professional art therapy association of the state, region or country in which the applicant wishes to work upon graduating.

Information Sessions and Workshops for Prospective Applicants
The Department offers larger group information sessions and experiential workshops each year, as well as individual information sessions. For more information, please contact arttherapy@sva.edu.

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