Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of group art therapy interventions in improving social and emotional issues for male high school freshmen. The Behavioral Assessment System for Children Second Edition (BASC-2) was used to measure academically tracked high school freshman (n = 80) receiving the 12 week intervention in a group setting in comparison to an academically matched control group (n=76). Independent sample t-tests compared participants in the Honor, Average and At Risk Tracks who received art therapy versus participants who did not. The findings indicate that for participants in the honors track, those receiving art therapy improved on Inattention/Hyperactivity (t (51) = 1.854, p<.035) more than those in the control group. For participants in the Average Track, Personal Adjustment (t (50) = 2.086, p<.021) and Self-Esteem scores (t (50) = 2.762, p<.004) improved more for art therapy participants than for those in the control group. No statistically significant differences were found for participants in the At-Risk track. Participant responses collected through five prompts aimed to assess participant’s perceptions regarding elements of their art therapy intervention experience. Qualitative findings were analyzed within academic track and suggested the efficacy of art therapy for ventilating frustrations, processing daily challenges and mediating emotions. Overall, eight themes emerged; sense of ownership, cathartic release, introspection, ventilation of negative feelings, expression of positive affect, fantasy or future projection, concrete descriptors and change in affect. Eighty-six percent of participants in the Honors Track art therapy group expressed positive affect when describing their emotions post art creation. Responses from the Honors Track participants were classified into four themes; ventilation of negative emotions, expression of positive affect, concrete descriptors and use of symbolic language. For participants in the Average Track, 80% of responses indicated positive feelings after creating the art work. Four themes emerged from Average Track participant responses; sense of ownership, ventilation of negative feelings, expression of positive affect and concrete descriptors. Although 42% of At-Risk Track participants reported a sense of ownership directly after creating the art piece, only 17% continued to express such ownership when reflecting about the artwork after several weeks. After participating in art therapy groups, participants reported feeling “more relaxed,” “successful and confident.”

Author Keywords: Art Therapy; Education; Secondary Education; High School Males; Inner City; Poverty; BASC-2; Academically Tracked; Delinquency; At-Risk Students; Honors Students; Enhancing Academic Experiences; Freshmen; Quasi-Experimental; Emotional Regulation; Trends in Education; Disappearance of Art; Anxiety; Depression; Self-Esteem; Inattention; Hyperactivity; Personal Adjustment; Internalizing Problems; School Problems

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