Revisiting Past Theses – Class of 2016

The thesis project is an integral aspect of the MPS Art Therapy program.  As we enter the spring 2017 semester, let’s take a moment to look back on the hard work of our alumni.  Here is a selection of thesis abstracts from the class of 2016:


Petra Artz

Case Study of an Adolescent with a Complex History of Loss and Trauma

This thesis explores the art therapy treatment of an adolescent young woman, Annie, with complex and cumulative trauma, within a state hospital setting. The work with Annie revealed a deeper understanding of a young girl, and how she was able to use art therapy and therapeutic relationship to explore her losses in the past, her future, and her identity. Themes surrounding her medical history, familial relationships, connectedness, and attachment were prominent throughout her artwork and through interactions.

Keywords: art therapy, adolescent inpatient, attachment, cardiac transplant, parental loss, trauma


Celeste Classon

Art Therapy with Adolescents: Using Ephemeral Natural Materials to Process Loss and Transition

This study looks at the utility of using ephemeral natural materials within art therapy as a way to metaphorically address transition and loss with adolescents living in a residential treatment center (RTC) who have a history of trauma and mental health diagnoses. Ephemeral natural materials are materials from nature such as leaves, sticks, and flowers that naturally decay or disintegrate over time. According to some literature, art therapy as a modality can be effective when working with adolescents who are forming their identity and transitioning out of childhood. In particular, using sensory art materials in art therapy can be helpful when processing trauma, which could be helpful for adolescents in RTCs who have experienced it. Contemporary artists who use sensory ephemeral materials note that these materials address the idea of impermanence and loss as it relates to the human experience. This qualitative comparative multiple and group case study found that the ephemeral natural materials were inappropriate for fragile populations such as the adolescents at the RTC. Upon further investigation, these materials were used with a normative adult population, where it was discovered that they stimulate conversation about loss and are both relaxing as well as upsetting.

Keywords: art, therapy, adolescents, impermanence, loss, transition


Carina Gomez

The Effects of Story Cloths as an Intervention to Regulate Affect in Addiction Treatment

Literature regarding the use of soft arts to promote mindfulness and affect regulation is limited in the field of art therapy. This paper presents a study conducted to measure the effectiveness of using story cloths to promote mindfulness and increase ability to regulate affect in an adult chemical dependency out-patient program (CDOP). The use of soft arts in addiction treatment can provide a safe, comforting outlet for expression that juxtaposes the often traumatic experiences clients portray in their artwork. Data was collected through anonymous self-report surveys and observation during sessions. The intervention used in this study was described by clients as relaxing, satisfying, engaging, and calming coupled with a reported increase in mood and positive feelings. Four case studies of clients were used to show how this narrative form allows clients to explore attachments to alcohol, caregivers, romantic interests, and the self.

Keywords: Art therapy, affect regulation, addiction, story cloths, soft arts, adult out-patient


June Ju Hyun Kang

Art Therapy with Older Adults using Technology

In the field of mental health and art therapy, there is a lack of outcome based research with an older adult population who suffers from declining physical and cognitive functioning as well as people with End­-of­-Life issues. A person’s ability to be independent is dependent on his or her overall health, mobility, and ability to complete the activities of daily living. Computer devices have been developed to support independent living and aging­ with­ choice. Dealing with end­-of­-life issues, hospice patients who have terminal illness need to maintain their quality of life by gaining empowerment. Through this qualitative study, art therapy intervention was facilitated using technology in terms of providing physiological accessibility in order to be able to gain a sense of control and achievement by art making. To view the effects of using technology with this population, the research made comparisons between the sessions which used traditional art materials (colored pencils) and those which used advanced technology (a tablet computer). By analyzing the participants’ artworks as well as observing their subjective and objective responses during the sessions that art therapy took place, the results of the four case vignettes demonstrated that when they incorporated a tablet to draw a picture, they appeared to have more engagement (time investment), intention and integration (composition and color coordination), playfulness and satisfaction (verbal reports). It was observed that technology allowed the participants to receive choices that are accessible. However, each case shows findings specific to particular clients and situations. The significance of individualization for each client’s need is raised.

Keywords: h​ospice care, quality ­of ­life, technology­ based, older adult art therapy


Arielle Rothenberg

Integration and Identity: Artwork as a Metaphor for Internal Self-States

The following study examines the metaphorical integration of internal self-states as represented by integration in artwork. This case study considers the process and progress of treatment with a high functioning, creatively-inclined thirty-four year-old woman who had a traumatic history of parental loss and was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder. An image rating session of the client’s artwork was held, where the Formal Elements Art Therapy Scale (FEATS) was utilized to guide analysis of treatment. The composition and coding of session progress notes, in-session observation, therapist participation in the art-making process, and ongoing assessment of countertransference was also employed to advise the treatment relationship and process of identity formation. The impact of trauma and grief, relational style, and social attitudes towards those living with mental illness were also relevant in treatment.

Keywords: Identity, Integration, Formal Elements Art Therapy Scale (FEATS), Schizoaffective disorder, Trauma, Art therapy


Sophie Yolowitz

Exploring the Attachment of a Mother and Son Through a Combination of Individual and Dyadic Art Therapy

This study explores the treatment of the attachment-related concerns of Lana (pseudonym) and Trevor (pseudonym), a 23-year-old mother and her 6-year-old son. When the family was referred for services, Trevor exhibited difficulty separating from his mother as well as challenging behavior at home, while Lana appeared isolated and overwhelmed. Individual sessions worked to honor the subjectivity of both sides of this relationship, the security of which was then addressed through dyadic art therapy that worked towards creating healthier, more playful, and positive interactions between the two. Examined through the lens of attachment, the outcomes of this study suggest that a combination of individual and dyadic work may comprehensively treat such a case in addressing both individual challenges as well as the mother-child relationship and the essence of attachment.

Keywords: Attachment, dyad, family art therapy, parent-child

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