Jason Butler, Associate Professor, Expressive Therapies, Lesley University

Jason Butler, Associate Professor, Expressive Therapies, Lesley University

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Jason Butler holds a PhD from the Individualized Program (INDI) from Concordia University. He is currently an Associate Professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the Expressive Therapies Division.

(February 2019)


What was your teaching experience like during your program?

At Concordia, I was part of the Creative Arts Therapies Department, so for a part of that, I taught as an adjunct faculty, and then, for the last part, I was teaching full time.

My research was in education, examining how we teach creative arts and drama therapists, so my teaching was very much tied to my research.

Did you have to teach, or did you have other funding?

My main source of funding was an FRQSC grant, in addition to travel funding through Concordia. I was blessed in that I did not struggle financially and I did not have to take on any debt. Teaching helped cover my expenses the first year, and then in the last year, I didn’t have any funding and I was teaching full time.

What about mentorship during your program?

I was in an interdisciplinary doctoral program, and my primary advisor helped me navigate a lot of the university systems. Other than the usual feedback, I don’t know that I received specific mentoring in terms of my teaching or my writing.

My program was such that there was no cohort or group; I wouldn’t say I felt connected to other students. I felt isolated in many ways in my PhD, but I think that’s the nature of the INDI. I certainly found other people who came into INDI after me (mostly in related research interests), people involved in creative arts therapies, and a couple of students in the Education Department. We would meet up for a coffee and we would discuss our work and the program, and support each other in that sense.

How long did it take you to complete your program?

Three years. I was pretty determined; I knew what I was after. My goal was to do it quickly, and luckily I had held an LTA position before my PhD, so I kind of knew the position. Teaching while researching helped me stay motivated, and because of my experience, it didn’t take a lot of prep.

I was also lucky with my committee members—they all knew each other, so the only obstacle was coordinating meetings.

What did you do after your program?

After graduation I continued in the LTA position, which was renewed for two more years. Then, I was hired as an associate professor and chair at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our university doesn’t have official tenure, but they have an equivalent, so they counted my experience as an LTA and brought me in as an associate instead of lecturer or assistant.

It seems like you really knew what you wanted to do. When did you know you wanted to do drama therapy?

Jason Butler describes why he went into a PhD program.

Oh, maybe since 2000, 2001? I’m in a very small profession as a drama therapist—there are only six training programs in North America, and to teach in any of them you need a PhD. It was always my goal to get a PhD and to teach, so I knew where the openings were and when they were going to happen. The INDI program let me create a program that focused on what I wanted to do and to do it in a time that made sense for me. I was able to be strategic about what I learned and what I studied. I wouldn’t make any changes; I think that things worked out just as I wanted and as I planned.

Do you have any advice for PhD students?

I don’t believe the way I did it is for everyone. But for those people who know what you want to do, self-advocate. Name what you want and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Sometimes we let the universities and the programs happen to us, and we stand passively by. Taking responsibility for our education is something that many of us could benefit from.


Many thanks to Jason for sharing his PhD narrative! You can find more about Jason and his work here and here.

Jason Butler holds a PhD from the Individualized Program (INDI) from Concordia University. He is currently an Associate Professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the Expressive Therapies Division.

(February 2019)


What was your teaching experience like during your program?

At Concordia, I was part of the Creative Arts Therapies Department, so for a part of that, I taught as an adjunct faculty, and then, for the last part, I was teaching full time.

My research was in education, examining how we teach creative arts and drama therapists, so my teaching was very much tied to my research.

Did you have to teach, or did you have other funding?

My main source of funding was an FRQSC grant, in addition to travel funding through Concordia. I was blessed in that I did not struggle financially and I did not have to take on any debt. Teaching helped cover my expenses the first year, and then in the last year, I didn’t have any funding and I was teaching full time.

What about mentorship during your program?

I was in an interdisciplinary doctoral program, and my primary advisor helped me navigate a lot of the university systems. Other than the usual feedback, I don’t know that I received specific mentoring in terms of my teaching or my writing.

My program was such that there was no cohort or group; I wouldn’t say I felt connected to other students. I felt isolated in many ways in my PhD, but I think that’s the nature of the INDI. I certainly found other people who came into INDI after me (mostly in related research interests), people involved in creative arts therapies, and a couple of students in the Education Department. We would meet up for a coffee and we would discuss our work and the program, and support each other in that sense.

How long did it take you to complete your program?

Three years. I was pretty determined; I knew what I was after. My goal was to do it quickly, and luckily I had held an LTA position before my PhD, so I kind of knew the position. Teaching while researching helped me stay motivated, and because of my experience, it didn’t take a lot of prep.

I was also lucky with my committee members—they all knew each other, so the only obstacle was coordinating meetings.

What did you do after your program?

After graduation I continued in the LTA position, which was renewed for two more years. Then, I was hired as an associate professor and chair at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our university doesn’t have official tenure, but they have an equivalent, so they counted my experience as an LTA and brought me in as an associate instead of lecturer or assistant.

It seems like you really knew what you wanted to do. When did you know you wanted to do drama therapy?

Jason Butler describes why he went into a PhD program.

Oh, maybe since 2000, 2001? I’m in a very small profession as a drama therapist—there are only six training programs in North America, and to teach in any of them you need a PhD. It was always my goal to get a PhD and to teach, so I knew where the openings were and when they were going to happen. The INDI program let me create a program that focused on what I wanted to do and to do it in a time that made sense for me. I was able to be strategic about what I learned and what I studied. I wouldn’t make any changes; I think that things worked out just as I wanted and as I planned.

Do you have any advice for PhD students?

I don’t believe the way I did it is for everyone. But for those people who know what you want to do, self-advocate. Name what you want and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Sometimes we let the universities and the programs happen to us, and we stand passively by. Taking responsibility for our education is something that many of us could benefit from.


Many thanks to Jason for sharing his PhD narrative! You can find more about Jason and his work here and here.

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