WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. July 18, 2022 — West Liberty University’s Art Therapy program is the recipient of a $25,000 award provided by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission as part of the Behavioral Health Workforce Transition Initiative.
The funding is provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or, CARES Act, with the goal of decreasing pressure on emergency services and increasing access to and utilization of community-based behavioral health care services.
“The Bridge (3+2) program was developed to help students save time and money as they transition from undergraduate to graduate studies,” said Dr. Susan Ridley, assistant professor of Creative Arts Therapy and chair of the Art Therapy and Counseling department.
“Both art therapy and counseling require a master’s degree for entry level practice. This transitional program is an opportunity to increase the number of behavioral health professionals working in the community, particularly for those living in rural areas.”
Students take nine credits of undergraduate core art therapy courses at graduate level and they apply to both degrees. Students complete all their undergraduate requirements except the Bridge courses and then switch to graduate studies. Once students have completed the Bridge courses and all other requirements, they graduate with a BS in Creative Arts Therapy, and once they complete their graduate degree, they are awarded a MA in Art Therapy and Counseling.
“We are so pleased with the ways this award will help us forward the WLU mission to serve our communities here in the Ohio Valley and beyond. Art Therapy is a flagship professional program in the College of Liberal and Creative Arts. Innovative and outward-facing, grounded in educational excellence and led by exceptional faculty, these programs prepare our students well for licensure and professional service,” said Dr. Cecilia Konchar Farr, dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts.
The award was announced in a June 9, 2022 letter from WVHEPC Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Cynthia Persily Ph.D. who thanked Ridley for participating in the opportunity.
According to information found on the WVHEPC website, West Virginia colleges produce hundreds of graduates with bachelor’s degrees in human services and health sciences fields, but too few go on to complete the master’s degrees required for licensure in behavioral health professions (specifically counseling, social work and psychology).
WLU’s Masters of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling graduate degree is a 60-credit hour program that consists of 51 credit hours of coursework, 3 credit hours of supervised practicum, and 6 credit hours of supervised professional internship.
The dual degree provides the education required for certification as an art therapist and licensure as a counselor. Postgraduate supervision and successful passing of exams are required for professional certification and licensure.
A versatile degree, it prepares students for work in behavioral health settings, including schools, hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, senior communities and other clinical environments.
“We are grateful for this funding, as it will encourage our undergraduate creative arts therapy students to pursue a master’s degree and serve to address the financial and accessibility barriers that might hold them back otherwise,” said Instructor Terri Giller, a teacher in the Creative Arts Therapy program. “Our hope is to really fill that gap between community need for mental health care and available, qualified clinicians.”
Funding under this program can be used to pilot new or expand existing pipeline programs to support students in the transition from undergraduate to graduate programs that prepare graduates for licensure in behavioral health professions. All West Virginia public and private 4-year institutions were eligible to apply.
For more information on the Art Therapy and Counseling program, please click here (westliberty.edu/media-visual-arts/ma-art-therapy-counseling) or contact Ridley at firstname.lastname@example.org.