Southern Arkansas University will begin offering a bachelor of fine arts degree in Art & Design with a concentration in Pre-Art Therapy in spring 2021. The 120-credit hour undergraduate program was recently approved by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
The program represents a collaboration between the Department of Art and Design and the Department of Behavioral Sciences, uniting mental health with the creative process. The curriculum prepares those seeking admittance to a master’s program in art therapy or a master’s in counseling or related fields emphasizing art therapy.
Dr. Deborah Wilson, chair of behavioral and social sciences, said that students have often inquired about an art therapy program at SAU. “Under Steven Ochs’ leadership, a plan was developed and approved so we are now able to offer another program that students wanted – one that can significantly impact human services,” Wilson explained.
“The coursework balances art and psychology,” said Ochs, chair of the art department. “The specific art therapy courses offer an overview into the history and growth of the discipline and the theoretical approaches that have evolved from the founding practitioners. Students develop a specific definition of art therapy that conveys a personal approach.”
Ashley Lawrence, who served as a curriculum advisor in the development of the program, will teach Introduction to Art Therapy. Lawrence graduated from SAU in 2015 with a BFA, Studio Emphasis, and a BA in English with a writing minor. Her discovery of art therapy as a student inspired her to explore it as a career.
“I am excited that my passion for the field has allowed me to return to my roots and teach Introduction to Art Therapy this spring,” Lawrence enthused. “I aim to introduce students to the concepts more thoroughly explored in a master’s degree program.”
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is an integrative profession that enriches lives through active art-making, applied psychological theory, and human experience. Students will acquire a broad understanding of the applications, theories, and career paths when preparing to apply to accredited art therapy or other related counseling graduate programs.
“As art therapists, our role is to help clients understand feelings that arise throughout the creative process,” said Lawrence. “This artwork isn’t meant for display. It serves as a confidential testimony to healing.”
Art therapy offers a means of communication for those unable to express themselves with words alone. People experiencing such difficulties as divorce or the loss of a loved one may benefit from participating in art therapy.
“Art therapists can fulfill workplace roles in hospitals, residential treatment facilities, prisons, shelters, schools, and private practice,” Lawrence explained. “Art therapy might be new to Arkansas, but the field is well-established and proven across numerous populations.”
To learn more about the pre-art therapy program at SAU contact Steven Ochs at 870.235.5053.