The Applied Arts and Social Justice (AASJ) Certificate is only open to on-campus students.

About the Program

A degree in art is not necessary to participate in this program — just a natural artistic interest and a desire to help others. Unique among social work programs, our Applied Arts and Social Justice (AASJ) Certificate lets students design a course of study that puts the creative process front and center. Students work with real people in real need, where the love of creativity combines with our rigorous social work curriculum to promote real change.


Projects may include painting and healing, theater or writing with incarcerated youth, the healing power of music for veterans dealing with PTSD or other mental health conditions, life- story work with aging populations, puppets in group therapy and many more. 

Social Work faculty teach the coursework as students gain skills, learn ethical guidelines, and develop the tools of social work.

At the same time, arts mentors and social work faculty support student research projects that are geared around AASJ. Students participate in art exhibits, performances and lectures by artists and healers. Selected electives support and enhance student skills.

The AASJ Certificate is offered at no extra cost, with no additional coursework required.

AASJ Certificate Forms

For more information, email Lori Power, Ed.D.

Certificate Objectives

Students learn strategies for how social workers can use arts to effect change in:

  • Mental health, personal development, and empowerment
  • Cultural competencies, communication, and critical thinking/problem solving
  • Individual motivation and readiness for change
  • Healing, health promotion, and community building

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Engage applied arts within social work to advance human rights and social inclusion.
  • Apply arts modalities to address discrimination and oppression, honor diversity, and empower self-determination and identity.
  • Utilize one or more expressive arts modalities within research-informed practice and practice-informed research on the micro/mezzo/macro levels.
  • Demonstrate how creativity improves readiness, flexibility, and ability to serve in social work practice, whether with individuals, communities, or causes.
  • Promote and advocate the use of arts and expressive therapies and the benefits for health, healing and social justice.


The certificate comprises 12 of the required 64 M.S.W. credits: Research II and three guided electives. It also engages the use of the arts in clinical field placements.

Existing approved electives include:

  • Community Organizing and Social Inclusion
  • Social Work With Children, Adolescents, and Parents
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Grief, Loss, Death, and Dying in Social Work Practice
  • Social Work in the Political Arena
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Grant Writing
  • Conflict Mediation
  • Advanced Trauma
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Social Work Practice and the Creative Arts
  • Applied Arts and Social Justice
  • Writing as a Tool for Change in Social Work Practice
  • Directed Study in the area of your interest (e.g. Storytelling for Social Inclusion, Addressing Racial Microagressions, etc.)
  • Other electives are always being developed and updated
SW Winter Session

Student Projects

M.S.W. student Deanna Barry ('17), conducted research on attitudes toward sexual harassment and combined this with community film screenings/panel discussions of the film The Mask You Live In. She worked in collaboration with local organization Maine Boys to Men.

"This film is unique in that it brings the male perspective into conversations about gender role pressures and stereotypes — something that is deeply needed for beginning to create a cultural shift. This current culture gender-based violence we live in is often devoid of this male perspective, simply blaming “all men” instead of acknowledging that the real issue is the society and culture we live in which teaches men and boys to behave in ways that are damaging to themselves and to others. The Mask You Live In demonstrates how it is our responsibility, regardless of our gender identity, to empathize, see each other as human, and partner together to create social and cultural change where all people of all gender identities are safe.

Screenings of the film are followed by a community discussion where attendees have the chance to talk about the film and these issues amongst themselves, and then ask questions of our staff and youth panel. These discussions are always full of deep, enriching conversations, personal stories, and motivation for change. It is through community events like these that we will begin to create wider social change and end the epidemic of interpersonal violence." — Deanna Berry

Julia Bergquist (Social Work, '18), conducted research on how participation in Shalom House's Art Program influences participating clients' mental health and overall well being. To conduct her research, she utilized the empirically-based emotional stability scale, PANAS-X, and gathered qualitative feedback through focus interview questions. 

The quotes from clients about their experiences in the program were profoundly positive. One participant wrote, 'It [the art program], is very helpful with my PTSD and helps connect me with my spirituality.' Another said that art as therapy, 'Brings me to a better place.' Yet another stated, 'I look forward to the art program every week.' The central themes of the participants' responses were empowerment, acceptance, and emotional peace, and this project reinforced the power and efficacy of art as therapy." — Julia Bergquist

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