About the Program

What is Transpersonal Art Therapy?

Written by Michael A. Franklin, PhD, ATR-BC

Transpersonal psychology is viewed within the graduate art therapy program as an evolving, researched discipline that integrates established models of psychology with valuable subjects from spiritual disciplines and wisdom traditions. This transdisciplinary assimilation, which strives to prevent cultural appropriation, results in a comprehensive model of psychology.

Transpersonal Art Therapy draws on this wide ranging premise through its core value to embrace the imaginal elements of the creative process as a rich healing opportunity. Any artistic act is a sample of multiple behaviors (cognitive, affective, kinesthetic, contemplative and spiritual), leading to the awareness that to form materials and processes is to transform oneself through art—we can literally create our way out of and through our suffering. The living image that results from the art process is the true teacher of this path. An art therapist working within the transpersonal approach strives to remain open to differences and to work for change at personal, cultural, institutional, and spiritual levels of transformation. Overall, this work is offered with empathic intentions, compassion for self and other, and the desire to transformatively serve communities and larger social systems.


The Transpersonal Art Therapy program supports Naropa’s mission by training students to become master’s-level graduates of Clinical Mental Health Counseling, licensed professional counselors, and art therapists.

Transpersonal psychology recognizes and integrates the insights, attitudes and practices of world wisdom traditions with modern psychological approaches. This integration provides the context for training students within the program, and it offers a context and a variety of techniques for the practice of professional counseling following the program. The program seeks to provide training that is grounded in rigorous academic work, a blend of critical thinking and contemplation, and skillful application of effective clinical skills, and it seeks to integrate this training with the practice of moment-to-moment awareness and present-centeredness.

The Socially Engaged Artist & the Naropa Community Art Studio

Mission Statement

One week after 9/11, the Naropa Community Art Studio (NCAS), which is housed in the Transpersonal Art Therapy program, was created by Michael A. Franklin PhD, ATR-BC. The overall goal of this long-term, curriculum-driven project, is to cultivate the socially engaged art therapist. During a studio practicum in the first year, students learn how to design, create, and finance a community-based studio.

The guiding vision behind the NCAS project is to provide a space for diverse groups to gather and create art together. Equal access for our studio members is stressed, particularly people who are marginalized and unlikely to have access to the humanizing practice of engaging in artistic behavior in community. Respect for cultural, ethnic, gender, and spiritual diversity is a founding principal of the NCAS. Unity in diversity, the birthright to pursue creative expression, and the capacity of visual art to contain and communicate the full range of human experiences comprise the essence of our mission and focus.

In addition to serving the Boulder public, Naropa graduate students will have an opportunity to define, manifest, and engage in a new paradigm for community-based service learning and art therapy education.

Since Our Founding

  • We have hosted more than 700 participant visits per year.
  • We have offered approximately 80 sessions per year.
  • We have trained approximately 18 mentors per year.

Franklin M. A. (2016). Imaginal mindfulness-imaginal intelligence: Musings on the languages of shadow and light in art, meditation, and clinical practice.  In F. J. Kaklauskas, C. J. Clements, D. Hocoy, & L. Hoffman (Eds.), Shadows & Light: Theory, research, and practice in transpersonal psychology (Vol. 1: Principles & Practices; pp. 101-121).  Colorado Springs, CO: University Professors Press.

Franklin, M. A. (2016). Contemplative approaches art therapy: Incorporating Hindu-Yoga-Tantra and Buddhist wisdom traditions in clinical and studio practice. In Rubin, J. A. (ed). Approaches to Art Therapy (pp. 308-329). New York: Routledge.

Franklin, M. (2010). Global recovery and the culturally/socially engaged artist. In Peoples, D. (Ed.), Buddhism and Ethics, 309-320. Ayuthaya, Thailand: Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University.

Franklin, M. (2008). Art as contemplative practice: Ethics and social action. In Peoples, D. (Ed.), Buddhism and Ethics, 376-382. Ayuthaya, Thailand: Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University.

Franklin, M.; Rothaus, M.; Schpock, K. (2005). Unity in diversity: Communal pluralism in the art studio and the classroom. In Kaplan, F. (Ed.), Art therapy and social action: Treating the world’s wounds. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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This is where experiential learning meets academic rigor. Where you challenge your intellect and uncover your potential. Where you discover the work you’re moved to do—then use it to transform our world.

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