Date of Award

Fall 12-6-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Michele Forinash

Second Advisor

Kelvin Ramirez

Third Advisor

Eunju Yoon


This study engages in phenomenological qualitative research, focusing on three North Korean defectors residing in the United States. The research comprised six sessions, each lasting ninety minutes. These sessions involved the active participation of the subjects in six face-to-face group art therapy (AT) sessions, adhering to the six guidelines outlined in the Amita Treatment Framework (ATF). These sessions encompassed the following components: 1) analyzing self-image; 2) finding positive qualities; 3) identifying challenges; 4) behaviors driven by emotions in challenging situations; 5) reframing challenges; and 6) reconstructing self-image and goal setting.

Results from the study revealed phenomenological insights into the participants' artistic processes, their interpretations and perspectives on their artwork, and the transformative journey of reframing their self-concept and resilience. The study yielded significant results, demonstrating that participants experienced an increase in self-esteem through the support of group art therapy. In addition, it helped them overcome the psychological challenges associated with adapting to a new culture and fostered an optimistic and hopeful outlook on their new lives in the United States of America.

Participants also acknowledged the pivotal role of art therapy in strengthening their self-confidence and beliefs, equipping them with the resilience necessary to face the challenges of their new lives. These findings suggest that participants' self-image and resilience improved after completing the program. Consequently, these findings underscore the significant contribution of art therapy in the area of psychological support and recovery for North Korean defectors, enabling them to envision a more positive future.



Number of Pages


Included in

Art Therapy Commons




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