Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This study looked at the role of art making in art therapy, specifically how art therapists value, understand, use, and make decisions regarding art in personal practice and in professional practice. The art-making aspect of art therapy is understudied considering it is art that differentiates art therapists from other helping professions that use art in practice. Additionally, the study sought to illuminate how art making informs both the artist and art therapist identities of professional clinicians. A mixed-methods design was employed to gather data based on inductive and deductive study methods. Constructivist philosophy provided a process for generating ideas and understanding art making as a structural component in art therapy. One hundred and twenty two female and five male art therapists (4.5% of the membership of AATA) took an online survey. Participants were professional art therapists from the United States and around the world. Five participants volunteered to be part of personal interviews. One hundred and six participants were from North America; six were from Europe and proximate areas. Findings indicated that art therapists value the use of art making but they often engage in theories, concepts, and techniques from other disciplines outside the creative arts therapies in order to create accessibility for clients. Participants identified conceptual methods of working, such as the Expressive Therapies Continuum (ETC), the concept of “art as therapy,” and media techniques. The theme of feminist theory was identified by participants and clearly described by others as a means to approach art therapy with vulnerable, or often marginalized populations of people. How art therapists look at art making, its fundamental roles in therapy and art therapy education, and its use as a unique professional practice skill must be considered for the future of the profession.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Number of Pages
Hluska, Mary Ellen, "Understanding the Roles and Uses of Art Making in Art Therapy" (2016). Expressive Therapies Dissertations. 3.
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