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Art Therapy


The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem. A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being.”


FSU’s innovative art therapy program integrates diverse theories and research-informed practices to foster culturally sensitive graduates who understand and apply the power of the visual arts and therapeutic relationships to promote personal and community wellness.


Establish the FSU Art Therapy Program as the premiere program for developing art therapy practitioners, scholar, educators, and leaders of the art therapy profession


  1. Provide diverse philosophical, theoretical, and practical learning opportunities, which include comprehensive practicum experiences, to support integrative knowledge of art therapy concepts and skills.
  2. Facilitate development of art therapy graduates as informed ethical agents of art therapy services
  3. Promote opportunities for community dialogues and experiences that enhance graduate students’ multicultural sensitivity and ability to attune art therapy interventions to participants’ cultural beliefs, practices, and values
  4. Actively engage students in research projects and critical review of scholarly research to support graduates’ ability to identify and utilize art therapy best practices
  5. Provide program, university, and community opportunities that support development of students’ leadership and professional advocacy skills
  6. Foster student exploration and understanding of art media and techniques to promote skillful facilitation of art processes that align with client characteristics and treatment goals
  7. Develop students’ knowledge of personal, symbolic, and cultural associations related to artworks and the various ways that meaning exploration and/or interpretation may be approached
  8. Encourage engagement in personal art making and other self-care methods as a means to sustaining personal health and professional productivity throughout an art therapy career
  9. Advance understanding of strengths, challenges, and developmental factors that influence client functioning and potential



Fall Enrollment Deadline Only

    • Art Therapy Program – January 15th

Apply Now

Masters Program

Candidates for the Masters of Science degree in Art Therapy must meet the special requirements specified under the Graduate Admissions page. This program is approved by the American Art Therapy Association.


This two-year, two-summer program of studies begins with an exploration of the theoretical foundations of art therapy and related topics. We strive to be comprehensive in our coverage of the varied theories of art therapy. Students will then be placed in internships that will expose them to work with a variety of individuals with different special needs and disabilities.

During the program, students can opt to complete a final project or a thesis.  The art therapy course work is 61 credits if the students do a project and 64 credits if the thesis option is selected. Two courses outside the program (chemical dependency and human sexuality) are highly recommended and, if taken, will provide students who remain in Florida the ability to work towards the mental health counselor license (LMHC).

Development of a specialization in a specific aspect of art therapy practice is at the discretion of the student. Although FSU does not offer specific courses leading to a specialized area of practice, students can create a targeted specialization by doing the following: (1) choosing specific topics for the assigned papers required in various courses, (2) selecting practicum sites that serve a specific population with the advice and guidance of Clinical Coordinator, (3) selecting additional courses outside the program that will inform the specialized area of interest, and (4) developing a culminating project or thesis in the specialization area. Some examples of specializations are: (a) working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum, (b) working in corrections and/or juvenile justice, and (c) eldercare, and (d) medical art therapy. FSU art therapy faculty members work closely with students who would like to work towards a specialization as well as advises and supports students to realize their goal.

The philosophy of the Department of Art Education as well as the Art Therapy program is based on Art for Life. In this model, art is considered as life-enhancing and is integral to the critique and betterment of society. The power of art for social justice and societal change is not only infused in our philosophy, but is the overarching theme that pervades our curriculum and coursework. In fact, the Department of Art Education, which houses the Art Therapy Program as well as two other programs, publishes the Journal of Art for Life, which focuses on social progress through the arts.

Program Course Sequence

Program Reading Requirements

Academic Advisement Form

Art Therapy Student Orientation Handbook

Doctoral Program

On July 1, 1965, the Board of Regents of the Florida State University system established a Doctoral program in Art Education in the Department of Art Education at Florida State University.

The first Doctoral students were accepted in January, 1966. The Doctoral program, which may lead to either the Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Education degree, consists of three special areas of concentration: Art Education, Art Therapy and Arts Administration.

Many of the recipients of the Doctoral degree are now teaching on the faculties of colleges and universities throughout the United States or are administering arts programs in education or arts institutions and agencies.

Doctoral Student Handbook

Summer Seminars

The weekend workshops offered over the summer months, co-sponsored by the FSU Art Therapy Program and the Center for Academic and Professional Development (CAPD), provide a unique learning environment for the students of the Art Therapy program.

Professionals and students from several disciplines attend these workshops that directly address various topics such as trauma and multicultural issues in art therapy. Each weekend course is lead by a visiting art therapist who is well adept at integrating art therapy theory with the particular subject area. Not only do students gain a foundation in these pervasive subject areas, they have an opportunity to learn from a variety of professors outside of the university.

In the past, these workshops have been offered at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida and at the Florida State University.

2017 Art Therapy Summer Seminar

2016 Art Therapy Summer Seminar

Art Therapy Faculty and Staff

Barbara Parker-Bell, Director & Professor of Art Therapy

David Gussak, Chair of Art Education Department & Professor of Art Therapy

Theresa Van Lith, Practicum Coordinator & Assistant Professor of Art Therapy

Susan Messersmith, Graduate Admissions Officer

Interested in Learning More?

Learn more about tuition and financial aid.

Know what university requirements and art therapy prerequisites are needed.

Still have questions? Contact Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell