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Significant Changes to Art Therapy Major Lead Three Sophomores to Threaten Transferring

Art Therapy has been a program at Emmanuel since 1980. Since then, the program has undergone changes, but nothing as significant as what occurred from the 2015-16 year to the 2016-17 year.

The program went from five semester long courses specifically for Art Therapy to three semester long courses.

In 2015-16 the Studio Art requirements were six required courses and two recommended ones. Currently there are three requirements and three additional courses “in consultation with the advisor” according to the 2016-17 course catalog.

The Psychology requirements went from a detailed list of five required and two specific recommended courses to one required Psychology course and two additional courses.

The Biology and Art History requirements were removed from the program in the 2016-17 course catalog.

2015-2016 Art Therapy program requirements.

2016-2017 Art Therapy program requirements.

“They [the Art Department] also wanted to make it a program of study that provided some form of flexibility for students who wanted to focus on the art aspect or the psychology aspect,” said William Leonard, Dean of Arts and Sciences.

Cynthia Fowler was the Art Department chair at the time of the new program proposal. She was working with the former Art Therapy Professor, Emily Gould, to develop a new program.

“We came up with a proposal to the changes that went through the Curriculum Committee and they were changes that I thought would still maintain the value of the Art Therapy program,” said Fowler.

“But then the numbers were low for one class, one grade level, and so the administration was still concerned about that and so in a meeting with Dr. Leonard, Cathy Souls, myself, and Cindy O’Callahan we sat together and it was a point where we didn’t think we were going to have an Art Therapy program that we got together. We looked at the requirements that Lesley University had for Art Therapy majors, to get accepted into their program, and collectively we came up with this streamlined program as an effort to save the program,” said Fowler.

Though they did save the program, students were not happy with the changes they saw. Ashley Paleski ’19, Hayley Dunne ’19, and Kerina Simonsen ’19, all prospective Art Therapy students, met with Leonard when they learned of the changes to the program.

Photo credit: Abbi Matheson ’17.

I feel that the changes to the major were made with good intentions however they do not benefit the art therapy students here. The changes make me feel like just another art student, which I am not. I am an Art Therapy student,” said Paleski.

I cannot help but feel a little cheated by being told, when I first started at Emmanuel, that the Art Therapy program was excellent and then being told the same thing when it has changed so many times and is now just a shadow of what it used to be,” said Simonsen.

All three sophomores considered transferring when they first learned of the changes to the Art Therapy program.

It makes me want to take another path honestly, whether that be changing my major or transferring to another school that offers Art Therapy,” said Dunne. “I don’t want to have to do either of those things.”

Abigail Thompson ’17 feels prepared for graduate school because she was in the program before the changes occurred, however the departure of the old Art Therapy professor left her without an adviser.

“As a senior I was left without an adviser a month before my fifteen hour a week endeavor into an internship that pushed me out of my comfort zone,” said Thompson. “I was informed that rehiring the professor was not put on priority for next semester someone who has guided me through this intense period of practicum learning this semester. I was tremendously let down by Emmanuel Administration and feel as though the Art Therapy department has been tossed aside and the education that I paid for and pre professional program they advertised has fallen short of my expectations and my needs to be successful and supported.”

Art Therapy is currently the only major on the art floor without a full time faculty member.

Photo credit: Abbi Matheson ’17.

Several meetings have occurred since then between these three students, administration, and Erich Doubek, the current Art Department Chair. Students felt that the changes were not communicated properly and according to Leonard, it was up to the Academic Advisors and the Art faculty to tell students of the program changes. He admits that there may have been a problem in communicating these changes.

As soon as that was brought to our attention, that’s what started this whole process as to fixing it,” said Doubek. 

Art Therapy is a pre-professional program, meaning students need some form of post graduate education in order to practice. This comes in the form of a Masters degree in Art Therapy. Several Emmanuel alumni attended Lesley University to get their Masters degree.

“I was impressed with the Art Therapy program, since it’s hard to find that at the undergraduate level. I knew I wouldn’t be able to pursue an art therapy MA at EC, but the program would set me up to apply to any art therapy grad school. I was excited to take Art Therapy courses since I hadn’t been exposed to the profession prior to EC and to have an internship in the field,” explained 2016 alumni Sarah Como.

Kelly DiBenedetto, a 2008 alumni, did not know about Art Therapy as a major until her tour at Emmanuel.

“I knew I always wanted to do something in counseling and art,” she said.

DiBenedetto credits her experience to getting her “feet wet” through the internship as well as her close relationship with Gould–one she still has today. So close a relationship, in fact, that DiBenedetto spoke to Gould’s classes as a professional art therapist, and even covered courses for Gould while she was on maternity leave.

Photo credit: Abbi Matheson ’17.

2016 alumni Rebekah Lunsford credits the courses she took in Art Therapy with inspiring her to pursue a career in social services.

“The courses I took were key to preparing me for the line of work that I’m in. A few classes that really impacted my decision to enter the field are Art Therapy Principles and Practices, Adult and Child Psychopathology, Childhood Development, and Counseling Theories and Techniques. These classes gave me a real feel for what it would be like to work with people on a therapeutic level and really peeked my interest in pursuing a career in the field,” said Lunsford.

According to Raquel Stephenson, Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Art Therapy at Lesley, they look for students who have 12 credits in Psychology, including abnormal and developmental and 18 credits of Studio Art. Emmanuel uses a four credit system for for their classes and these requirements translate to three courses in Psychology and five courses in Studio Art.

I think the students are going to be very well served by the program. I think what we’re, how we’re re-imagining or re-approaching the internship will actually be, that’s going to help them, we know that internships help you get into graduate school,” said Leonard.

“Due to some of the vagueness of language it could be easily mishandled and then lines up our students for not having the requirements for grad school and that’s unacceptable,” Doubek said.

Students agree that the changes to the program may not help prepare them for graduate school.

I don’t really think the changes help prepare us for graduate school in the way that the old program did. A lot of important classes aren’t required anymore. Although I’m glad those changes don’t really effect me, it’s not fair to the younger people because they’re missing out on some valuable classes,” said Jennifer Habeeb ‘18.

“Before they had a full structure of every single aspect of psychology that relates back to Art Therapy and the fact that they don’t have those guidelines is hindering students from having the best opportunity to have that knowledge before entering Masters where they keep on advancing those thoughts,” said Elanna Abreu ’18.

Photo credit: Abbi Matheson ’17.

Michal Rebibo is the current Art Therapy professor and an alumni of Emmanuel. She took on the roll after Gould left for personal reasons during the summer of 2016. Rebibo is an adjunct and therefore has little input in the reshaping of the program.

“I’m hired to teach a class and so that became really problematic because Emmanuel was interested in only hiring an adjunct because it was so last minute and they needed to get stuff together yet at the same time the program is going through massive changes and there are no art therapists in the system here,” said Rebibo. “I relayed some ideas to Erich but I’ve never attended any meetings, I’ve never talked to administration, I was never consulted with directly through administration. It was only through Erich trying to figure out what things looked like.”

Progress has been made in changing the program. Currently, there is a “quick outline of a new curriculum,” according to Doubek and it will be expanded upon moving forward.

Introduction to Art Therapy, a course that used to be offered to students only in their sophomore year, is now available to students in the spring of their freshman year. Currently, there are 30 Emmanuel students enrolled in the course.

“It has actually hit the class capacity for this upcoming semester and we actually have three that I’m turning away from other schools because we don’t have room for them,” said Doubek.

I think if these numbers hold up, I think it’s got a bright future and it’s got an interest in it,” said Leonard.

“We had one bad year I think is what happened in terms of the Art Therapy students. From our perspective we’re hoping it was a blip and that fundamentally the program is fine,” said Fowler.

Abbi Matheson is the Editor in Chief of The Hub. She can be contacted at and on Twitter @abbimatheson.

Heather Alterisio is the Executive Managing Editor and a Staff Writer for the Hub. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @heathbar522.

Posted by on December 8, 2016. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.