Undergraduate Overview

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers several undergraduate courses for students interested in exploring art therapy as a future profession or considering how the approaches and philosophies of the field can inform their artistic development. 

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While SAIC does not offer a formal undergraduate major in Art Therapy, Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) students can combine practical SAIC Internships with psychology classes from the Liberal Arts department and studio coursework as a preparation for a graduate education in Art Therapy.

The profession of art therapy requires a master's degree. To learn about the SAIC Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling program, please download the Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling Program Guide [PDF] for detailed information. Undergraduate students interested in eventually applying to graduate art therapy programs in the United States should take the required pre-requisite minimums: 12 semester credits in psychology courses, including Abnormal Psychology and Developmental Psychology, and 18 semester credits in studio art courses.

Undergraduate students interested in the principles and practices of art therapy are encouraged to enroll in:


ARTHER 1101 Explorations in Community-based Practice—This studio course explores expanded modes of practice for artists working with communities. Various approaches and strategies of engagement are explored. Off-campus experiential opportunities and service learning are key aspects of this course. Readings, guest lectures, and discussions are used to present various perspectives on art education, art therapy, artists-in-residencies, and other contexts in which artists engage communities.

ARTTHER 2010 The Creative Process as Art Therapy—This class explores and implements concepts from art therapy and related fields and presents a blend of approaches including Eastern traditions, Jungian psychology, and other sources. Studio work and writing are used as tools to understand and cultivate the discipline of self-awareness.

ARTTHER 3009 Introduction to Art Therapy—Open to students at junior level and above, this course offers a didactic and experiential overview of the history, theory, and practice of art therapy processes and approaches as well as a survey of populations, settings, and applications.

ARTTHER 3010 Video and the Human Experience—Art therapy considers many aspects of the interplay of art and the human experience: health, suffering, healing, and creativity. This course will entail the viewing and making of videos to investigate and critique these and related issues. Students will explore the documentary and educational potential of video, its use as a clinical tool, and its capacity as a medium for personal creative expression within the context of art therapy and beyond. Reading, discussion, audiovisual presentations, and digital video production constitute the structure of this class. 

ARTTHER 3012 Ritual and Artmaking in Healing—This class explores the use of ritual and artmaking for personal and societal healing. Students reflect on ritual as part of daily life, cultural rituals, and life-cycle rituals and examine the process by which art embodies, represents, and transforms rituals. The exploration of artmaking and healing rituals in a sampling of cultures, both ancient and contemporary, provides a context for class discussion, group projects, and personal art practice. The role that ritual and artmaking play in encouraging personal healing and promoting social cohesion is discussed and explored.

ARTTHER 3020 Expressive Arts in Therapy—This course will explore the relevance of imagery, creative writing, storytelling, nature, drama, music, and dance as communication and change agents for diverse lives and contemporary communities. Students will work in small group to research artists and creative works that embody substantiality, foster growth or healing, and articulate the power of imagination using an expressive therapies model. Engaging in a Personal Geography project students will discuss the use of creative expression, processing, and product in a multicultural context. (3 credits)

ARTTHER 3030 Processing: New Media & Narrative Therapy—Narrative therapy decenters the subject, composes, de-storys, and enacts new ways of living. This course attempts to negotiate the history of linear therapeutic narrativizing with the critical disruptions of new media theories to understand postmodern storying and re-storying. Experiential learning facilitated by both a therapist and new media artist allows students to explore the theoretical, clinical and personal contingencies that require them to improvise, change direction, and reformulate meanings of themselves and others. Works of new media, literature, cinema and performance will be utilized. No experience necessary. (3 credits)

ARTTHER 3032 Stitch-By-Stitch: Feminism as Practice—This interdisciplinary course considers the topic of craft practices and the therapeutic through the lens of feminist pedagogy, including theories of touch and interembodiment. Students will examine the critical role craft and the domestic arts have played in raising questions surrounding feminism, gender, and labor practices in everyday histories. Drawing on DIY movements, craftivism, and fabriculture, the course examines local and international projects centering on memory, trauma and collaboration. The class will explore the ethics of community collaborations and how the practice of making can cultivate a sense of community, wellbeing, and social capital. (3 credits)

ARTTHER 4010 Comics Narratives: Illness, Disability & Recovery—This course explores narratives of illness, stigma, and marginalization told through comics and graphic novels. Students engage in reading, discussing, and making comics dealing with topics of physical and psychiatric illness, caregiving, and recovery. The current “graphic medicine” movement, applications of comics in art therapy, and graphic novels and comics dealing with narratives of illness outside of a therapeutic or medical context are discussed and used as inspiration to generate content for student projects. (3 credits)