A small Catholic university in California has become the first in the nation to offer a PhD in art therapy. Beginning in fall 2013, Notre Dame de Namur University will admit its first class for the three-year program leading to a Doctor of Philosophy in Art Therapy. With 133 students, NDNU's master's program in art therapy is the largest in the United States. This will be NDNU's first doctoral program.
"Art therapy, as a discipline, has been practiced since the 1940s and has grown rapidly in recent years," said Dr. Richard Carolan, chair of the NDNU Department of Art Therapy, "The need for a rigorous program designed to produce art therapists with a high level of skill in both research and clinical work has been clear for several years. As a recognized leader in the field of art therapy it was logical for NDNU to offer the first PhD in this discipline." He added that in recent years, positions for art therapists have been growing rapidly in hospitals, K-12 school programs, community agencies, military family and veteran's health services and services for the elderly.
According to the Art Therapy Association (ATA), art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. Research in the field confirms that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.
The three-year NDNU PhD program is designed for working art therapy professionals with master's degrees in art therapy or a related field and emphasizes scholarly research as well as clinical expertise.