Pre-Art Therapy (BA)

Art Therapy student helping a child staple artwork together

Where the creative process meets the healing process.

Why Study Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a calling at the intersection of creativity and human services. By engaging clients in the creative process — whether making art or interacting with it — art therapists help develop and enhance the mental, emotional and physical well-being of people in all age ranges. Because it can unlock emotional expression by facilitating non-verbal communication, art therapy is especially beneficial in cases where traditional psychotherapy has been ineffectual.

To become an art therapist, you’ll need a master’s degree in art therapy, counseling, psychology or a related field and art therapy certification from the Art Therapy Credentials Board.

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Career Outlook & Success


National median salary for substance abuse and mental health counselors (BLS, 2019)


art galleries on campus


expected demand for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors

Why Study Art Therapy at USF?

The University of Saint Francis designed its pre-art therapy program to prepare you for success in graduate school. With elements of studio art, social work and psychology, our robust, hands-on curriculum builds a foundation in human development and behavior, encourages your artistic talent, and hones your counseling techniques.

Built on Franciscan values of faith and reason, your entire USF academic experience will prepare you to serve people of all backgrounds as an ethical, compassionate mental health professional.

Hands-On Learning Experiences

Hone Your Skills With a Creative Concentration 

You’ll graduate with an impressive portfolio of artwork in one of three art mediums/concentration areas: 3-D Art, 2-D Art or Photography.

Apply Your Skills Through Internships & Service

As you study art therapy, you’ll gain experience in community and professional settings through internships and service-learning.

Faculty & Facilities

You’ll take classes, work independently and collaborate with others in vibrant, creative learning spaces, outstanding art studios, and state-of-the-art labs. And you’ll find art all around you, with five galleries on campus.

In such an interdisciplinary field, you’ll study art therapy with faculty members with educational, artistic and professional experience and expertise:

  • Dr. Monica Heller, a research scientist and expert in human growth and development
  • Dr. Rolf Daniel, a forensic and clinical psychologist with expertise in addiction and substance abuse
  • Dr. Carl Jylland-Halverson, an expert in trauma-related conditions
  • Dr. Kathy Danko-McGhee, researcher and writer in art education
  • Emily Lautzenheiser, MSEd., whose primary professional interest is investigating and supporting trauma-informed practice for all youth
  • Lisa M. Deskins, MSW, a social worker experienced in managing programs for at-risk youth and sexual assault survivors

Campus & Community Involvement

Your passion for the creative arts and desire to enter the mental health profession might spark your interest in clubs, activities and professional organizations such as:

  • American Art Therapy Association
  • Artists in Action
  • Campus Ministry
  • Cougars Care
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Dead Artists Society
  • f/8 Photo Club
  • Get Psyched! (student-led psychology club)
  • Jesters of the University of Saint Francis
  • Mudslingers Ceramics Club
  • Pencil Pushers Sketch Club
Acrylic art project

Graduate School & Art Therapy Certification

USF pre-art therapy students pursue master’s degrees in areas such as art therapy and counseling; applied behavioral analysis; and school psychology at institutions such as:

  • Edinboro University
  • Springfield College
  • St. Mary of the Woods
  • Southern Illinois University
  • Ursuline College

The University of Saint Francis offers several graduate and doctoral programs in the mental health disciplines.

Careers in Art Therapy: Where You’ll Find Our Graduates

Art Therapists
Art therapy certification/licensure can lead to counseling, therapeutic and other clinical positions in a range of settings, from school districts and social services agencies to healthcare facilities and rehabilitation centers.

Art Educators
After they study art therapy some graduates pursue teaching certification (such as through USF’s Transition to Teaching program) and become art educators in grades PreK-12.

Mental & Behavioral Health Positions
With the social work and psychology background you’ll build in the pre-art therapy bachelor’s program, you can find work as a mental health counselor, recreational therapist or related positions.

I really like how many opportunities we have to apply our work to real-life situations. I did a year-long internship at Erin’s House working with teens and younger children. As a facilitator, I used art to help them connect to their peers and work through their challenges. It’s empowering to use what I’ve learned to help others.

Brittney Ley ’19, pre-art therapy and psychology

Ready to start?

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Whether you know what you want to see, who you want to meet or are just exploring your options, we will personalize your campus visit to fit your needs.

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Academic Plan

An academic plan is a general blueprint showing how one might complete the degree, semester by semester. Get an idea on what each semester could look like.

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