Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, Concentration in Drama Therapy


Program Description

"Freedom and possibility are two keywords that begin to describe the essence of drama therapy. Life is finite; there are only so many experiences we can have. But in drama, the opportunities and options are endless, enabling us to dive more deeply into the richness of life. And when the dramas are authentic and "real," they have the power to affect, and even alter, our real lives profoundly. For the past thirty years, we have been investigating how therapeutically adapted dramatic processes work overtime to heal wounds, facilitate lasting change, and help people reach their highest potential."
– Renée Emunah, Program Founder/Director

For more than 30 years, the CIIS Drama Therapy program has been steeped in the exploration of how therapeutically adapted dramatic processes work overtime to heal wounds, facilitate lasting change, and help people reach their highest potential. Our program integrates experiential, didactic, and clinical courses in a carefully paced and sequenced curriculum, to train students to become personally and culturally aware, attuned, and competent drama therapists and psychotherapists.

Our program is one of the only master's programs in the United States both regionally accredited and approved by the North American Drama Therapy Association and is one of only a handful of such programs in the world. Furthermore, we are the only program that offers a path to the LPCC license. CIIS is internationally recognized as housing one of the world's most highly developed and rigorous training programs for drama therapists.

Our graduates work in a variety of leadership positions and settings, including community mental health centers, private practice, schools, and educational centers, organizations for serving LGBTQ communities, and clinics offering services for trauma, eating disorders, loss, and self-care.

About the Program

The Drama Therapy Program at CIIS is one of the two most long-standing programs in North America. 

Our aim is to take students on a challenging and compelling personal and intellectual journey toward deeper levels of understanding and developing competence in drama therapy. Our commitment is to provide serious, multilayered training in using this potent medium ethically, respectfully, and skillfully. Faculty and students delve into the complexities, subtleties, and possibilities of drama therapy. Coursework is sequenced and progressive. Theoretical, practical/clinical, and experiential formats are incorporated. Small, action-oriented classes within a cohort model support students' personal development and a sense of community. While many people come to our program already personally familiar with the transformative power of drama, even the first semester of the program reveals new dimensions to the field and gives a glimpse of the vast range of exploration ahead.


An integral part of the program is three semesters of on-site clinical training and supervision at a wide range of possible placement sites. Trainees receive weekly supervision on-site by a licensed clinician, as well as small-group supervision at CIIS with a Registered Drama Therapist (RDT).

 Integrative Seminar and Capstone Project

In their final semester of the program, students take an Integrative Seminar which supports the development of a capstone project. This final project may be a theoretical article, a live, self-revelatory (therapeutic) theater performance, or a video documenting a drama therapy treatment process. All formats are presented publicly to a community of peers, family, and friends, leading to a sense of culminating achievement in the program.


CIIS is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. The program follows the academic guidelines set forth by the North American Drama Therapy Association and meets academic requirements for registry as a drama therapist (RDT). The program also fulfills academic requirements for Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT*) licensure in the state of California. Coursework preparing for licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) is also available.

*Please note that in order to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, you must also complete 3,000 hours of internship in addition to your educational requirements. You will graduate from our program with between 700 and 1,000 hours that will count toward licensure.


About the Field

Drama therapy is the systematic and intentional use of drama and theater processes to promote emotional growth and psychological integration. The field of drama therapy, which was founded in 1979, has a solid theoretical foundation. Many models and methods (including Emunah's Integrative Five Phase Model of Drama Therapy, Johnson's Developmental Transformations, and Landy's Role Method) are studied. Clinical issues (such as distinguishing compulsive and constructive reenactment, the therapeutic direction of improvisational enactment, creative responses to resistance, and use and misuse of psychodramatic tools) are examined from multiple perspectives. We use role-play and enactment in training-making learning more engaging, embodied, and interactive! We believe that learning can and should be relevant, exciting, and transformative.

Sources, Processes, and Modalities in Drama Therapy

The primary sources of drama therapy include dramatic play, theater, role play, psychodrama, and dramatic ritual. Drama therapy, as one of the creative arts therapies, facilitates artistic expression-engendering clarity, mastery, meaning, and hope. In drama therapy, we choose from a wide array of adapted dramatic processes. Storytelling, improvisation, self-revelatory performance, life review, Playback Theater, physical theater, creative drama, puppetry, scripted pieces, and more are tailored to the needs of a specific group or individual. Drama also includes the other arts; in drama therapy, music, dance/movement, art, poetry, and photography/video are selectively incorporated to enhance the therapeutic and/or aesthetic nature of the work.

Career Opportunities

The rapidly expanding field of drama therapy offers a huge range of work opportunities, and we encourage students to pursue their individual passions. The unique combination of a solid background in counseling psychology and specialized training in drama therapy, along with considerable experience in leading groups (a skill that community mental health facilities highly value) comprise some of the factors that have led our graduates to obtain satisfying jobs readily. Alumni work in private practice, psychiatric settings, battered women shelters, schools, and substance-abuse treatment programs; they work with children, at-risk adolescents, seniors, veterans, and polarized groups in the community. Some use action methods and role-play in corporate consulting, diversity training, and small- and large-scale community projects. Others are engaged in research, teaching, publication, performance, and doctoral or postdoctoral pursuits.

Course of Study

The Drama Therapy curriculum has been carefully designed to provide a rigorous academic experience that will prepare you to use drama therapy in a variety of contexts; assimilate an array of psychological theories and orientations, and to be able to engage in meaningful clinical discussions and consultations with other professionals in the field of mental health. The courses are also crafted to provide a rich and intimate encounter with drama therapy processes in the hopes of nurturing personal growth while fostering a palpable appreciation of the power of these methods.

The First Year - A Personal Experience of a Powerful Modality

Your first semester in the program features an immersive experience in a drama therapy group as a participant. In Drama Therapy Process and Technique, you and the other members of your cohort will engage in a drama therapy group process while examining that process on a meta-level to appreciate the nature of the processes, techniques, and interventions being employed by the group instructor. Other classes in this semester will provide a background in Drama Therapy Theory, developmental views of human psychology, and an appreciation of the nature of the therapist/client relationship. A Theatre Lab in improvisational Playback Theatre form rounds out the first semester.

During the second semester, coursework emphasis shifts from the personal experience of drama therapy to developing leadership skills. Drama Therapy Practice provides a laboratory for students to experiment with group leadership. Similarly, in Psychodrama, students are afforded an experience of psychodramatic forms and techniques, while developing directing skills. Encouraging exposure to all the creative arts therapies, the Group Dynamics class develops the student's ability to understand and facilitate group therapy. The second semester also includes coursework in Psychopathology and Assessment and training on the legal and ethical issues that confront the mental health clinician.


In preparation for Practicum, students are required to observe at least 45 hours of group drama therapy facilitated by a drama therapist. The Pre-Practicum is a first-hand opportunity for students to observe and experience a drama therapist in action without the responsibility of having to lead a group. The Pre-Practicum also affords students the chance to familiarize themselves with clinical settings, populations, and techniques.

Diversity Training

All Masters in Counseling Psychology students are required to participate in a one-day diversity training during their first year. This training usually takes place in the fall. 

The Second Year - Beginning Your Clinical Career

Typically during the second year, students begin their Clinical Practicum. This work is supported by the Drama Therapy Program via a Group Supervision 'Case Seminar' class in which students share their cases and receive feedback from experienced drama therapists. Because the Practicum demands a lot of time and energy, many students begin to slow the pace of their coursework. Others elect to focus on completing coursework, holding off the Practicum until the 3rd year.  Some finish the program in 2 years including 2 summers.

Coursework is focused on required psychology classes. Psychotherapy Theories and Practices, Family Dynamics, Clinical Research, Trauma and Resilience, Multicultural Counseling, Intro to Community Mental Health, and the particular issues that arise when working with alcohol and chemical dependency and spousal abuse, are some of the training topics. Students also have the opportunity for more in-depth training in Developmental Transformations or in Renée Emunah's Five Phase Model of drama therapy which was introduced in Process and Technique.

Personal Therapy Requirement

Students must complete at least 50 hours of in-person, individual therapy with a licensed clinician (MFT, LCSW, PsyD or RDT), accomplished within a period of approximately six to 18 months during their course of study.  Advisors can assist students with their choice of therapist.

Integrative Seminar and Capstone Project

The Capstone Project completed in the Integrative Seminar is an opportunity for the student to integrate learning throughout the program and develop it into a final presentation.

Admission Requirements

We seek (and seem to attract!) creative, motivated, mature students who have already demonstrated a strong interest in the integration of theater and therapy.

Integrity, introspection, and dedication are all essential attributes. Our students come to the program from around the world. Applicants must have a background in drama/theater and a minimum of two undergraduate psychology courses. Volunteer or paid work experience in human services is strongly recommended.


We encourage and embrace diversity in our program, and place a high value on having students from a variety of racial and cultural backgrounds; other representations of diversity (including age range) are also important to us. We look at each applicant holistically, and if you feel passionate about this field, we welcome your application.

Application Requirements

  • Online Admissions Application
    Begin the application process by submitting an online graduate application and submitting the non-refundable $65 application fee payment.
  • Degree Requirement
    An undergraduate degree (BA, BS, or BFA) from an accredited college or university.
  • Academic Prerequisites 
    Two undergraduate psychology courses from an accredited college or university are required. They may be in progress during the application process.
  • Minimum GPA
    A GPA of 3.0 or higher in previous coursework is required. However, a GPA below 3.0 does not automatically disqualify an applicant and CIIS will consider a prospective student whose GPA is between 2.0 and 3.0. These individuals are required to submit a GPA Statement and are encouraged to contact the Office of Admissions to discuss their options.
  • Transcripts
    Official transcripts from all accredited academic institutions attended where 7 or more credits have been earned. If transcripts are being mailed to CIIS, they must arrive in their official, sealed envelopes. Transcripts from institutions outside the US or Canada require a foreign credit evaluation through World Education Services (WES) or CIIS will also accept foreign credential evaluations that are in a comprehensive course-by-course format from the current members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES).
  • Autobiographical Statement
    A five to seven-page (12 point font, double-spaced) introspective essay in which you reflect on significant childhood and adult life experiences that have affected your personal development.
  • Goal Statement
    One page (12 point font, double-spaced) statement of your educational and professional interests, goals, or passions.
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
    From academic advisors, professors, or professional supervisors. Recommenders should use standard business format and include full contact information-name, email, phone number, and mailing address.
  • Background Outline
    A one-page outline specifically listing your background/experience (if any) in (1) theater/drama (2) psychology (3) human services/counseling work, and (4) creative arts therapy. If you hold a degree in any of these areas you can simply indicate that (for example, BFA in Theatre. For all other areas, list any courses, internships, work experience pertinent to that category (or indicate "none").
  • Interview
    Individual and group interviews by invitation from the admissions committee.

International Students

Please note: International students and individuals who have studied at institutions outside the US and Canada have additional requirements.

Last updated Dec 2020

About the School

California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is an innovative, forward-thinking university based in San Francisco, California.

California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is an innovative, forward-thinking university based in San Francisco, California. Read less
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