WLU adds creative arts therapy program

WEST LIBERTY – With the approval of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, a bachelor of science in creative arts therapy degree is now being offered at West Liberty University.

Art therapy is a field of psychology that relies on art and creativity to explore trauma and seek healing for a wide range of individuals, officials said.

“West Liberty University is the only institution of higher education in the state to offer the undergraduate degree in creative arts therapy. I thank the faculty and administrators who worked very hard to make this signature program a reality,” said President Robin C. Capehart.

William Baronak, dean of the College of Arts and Communication, guided the academic plan approved this past August.

“We anticipate great interest in the program and have had many student inquiries into this major,” Baronak said. The new program wouldn’t have come to fruition without the support of the Albert Schenk III and Kathleen H. Schenk Charitable Trust, which provided the grant that fueled the new degree.

Besides providing another valuable educational program for students, the creative arts therapy major will benefit the community through student projects and internships, as well as the preparation of future employees in the mental health industry, according to professor Brian Fencl.

For several years the college of arts and communication has recognized an increasing interest in the art therapy field from incoming freshmen. The new degree program provides a course of study and a way to explore and practice a range of solution-focused therapies with opportunities to build professional portfolios.

The degree broadens the scope of the division of art at WLU, giving students the option to choose a bachelor of science in graphic design, a bachelor of arts in art education, a bachelor of science in digital media design or the new creative arts therapy degree, officials said.

Art therapists work with a variety of populations including at-risk children, adolescents, adults and seniors; people with addictions, emotional, developmental, mental and physical health challenges. Children with autism and autism-spectrum disorder have unique learning and social needs that can find expression through art.