Graduate Counselling and Applied Psychology (GCAP) 651

Art Therapy History and Theory (Revision 3)


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Delivery Mode: Paced study; online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Graduate Studies

Prerequisite: GCAP 631, GCAP 633

Faculty: Faculty of Health Disciplines

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Throughout GCAP 651: Art Therapy History and Theory, students will acquire an understanding of how art therapy developed into a distinct profession in both North America and Europe by initially looking at the works of key figures, theoretical approaches, and current trends in the field. They will have the opportunity to see how art therapy has proliferated and expanded beyond its early psychoanalytic roots, as art therapists increase the number of theoretical lenses through which they perceive the practice of art therapy. New challenges will be addressed by looking at art therapy from a broader perspective, from its beginnings as a treatment modality for the mentally or emotionally disturbed to its gradual transformation into a more diverse profession. Students will also learn how the foundations of art therapy are buttressed by many disciplines whose applications extend into many settings. Selected course readings and assignments will allow students to develop their own looking and listening perspectives as well as to consider the role of creativity in art therapy.


The course is divided into 13 weekly lessons, structured as follows:

  • Lesson 1: Introduction to Key Components - Roots of the Art Therapy Profession
  • Lesson 2: American and Canadian Pioneers of Art Therapy and Its Emergence Internationally
  • Lesson 3: The Unconscious, Transference, and Aesthetic Countertransference
  • Lesson 4: Art Therapists as Artists
  • Lesson 5: Approaches to Art Therapy - Jung and Winnicott
  • Lesson 6: Approaches to Art Therapy - Humanism
  • Lesson 7: Family Art Therapy and Group Art Therapy- History and Process
  • Lesson 8: Art Therapy, Neuroscience, and the Treatment of Trauma-Related Disorders
  • Lesson 9: Creativity and Art Therapy
  • Lesson 10: Emerging Trends and Expressive Art Therapies
  • Lesson 11: Postmoderism and Art Therapy
  • Lesson 12: Feminism, Multiculturalism, Social Change, and Art Therapy
  • Lesson 13: Designing Your Personal Theory of Art Therapy

Course Evaluation

To receive credit for GCAP 651, students must submit all of the course assignments. The passing grade for the course is 70%. The assessment structure for GCAP 651: Art Therapy History and Theory is based on the following course activities, with the percentage weighting of each activity as indicated. Your final grade for the course will be a composite mark based on your performance in these course activities.

Course Activity Weight
Participation in Online Discussions 25%
Assignment 1: Interview with an Art Therapist 30%
Assignment 2: Personal Theory Paper 45%
Total 100%

Course Materials

All course materials are available online.

Other Information

Students with a disability, who require academic accommodation, need to register with the Access to Students with Disabilities Centre at Athabasca University. Notification of the need for academic accommodation must normally be provided to the program office no later than fourteen (14) days prior to the first day of class. It is the student's responsibility to register with the Disability Centre to request academic accommodation if required and to notify the instructor that such accommodation has been requested. Every reasonable effort will be made to accommodate individual student needs. However, because GCAP courses are paced, all student are required to participate weekly in the online discussion forums. There are also several courses where online exams are required.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice.

Opened in Revision 3, January 2012.

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