Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


The purpose of this two-part study was to understand supervisors’ current attitudes and perspectives of using art-making in art therapy supervision and supervisors’ experiences of empathy when using art-making in art therapy supervision.

In Study 1, 229 members of American Art Therapy Association (AATA) completed a survey about supervisors’ attitudes and perspectives of using art-making in supervision. In addition, three participants who used art-making in supervision were interviewed on their empathetic understanding when using art-making in supervision. Follow-up interviews were conducted with the three previous participants for Study 2. The survey data were analyzed with descriptive statistics and the interview data were analyzed with Moustakas’s (1994) transcendental phenomenology.

Supervisors were encouraged to check every applicable answer in the survey. A majority of supervisors used art-making in supervision with art therapy students (78.1 %) or professional art therapists (72.5 %). Supervisors identified the purpose of using artmaking in supervision as deepening supervisees’ understanding about clients (83.9%) and for supervisees’ self-care (82.6%). For the question about the benefit of using art-making in supervision, providing insight from supervisees (84.3%), promoting clarity about the clinical issue through the congruency between supervisees’ verbal report and their artwork (77.4%), and role modeling for using visual language (71.1%) were the most chosen responses.

Themes from the first interviews were (a) supervisors empathized with supervisees’ difficulties and reacted by using art-making; (b) art-making enhanced supervisors’ empathetic understanding of supervisees, supervisees’ sense of their sites, 10 and supervisory relationship; and (c) supervisors’ previous positive experiences of using art-making in supervision with their own supervisor was influential to their current supervision. Another three themes emerged from the follow-up interview: (a) art-making provided a safe environment and so opened up empathy in supervision; (b) supervisors’ experiences of surprise about the powerful role of art-making in which art-making revealed empathetic understanding; and (c) supervisors’ inclination to use art-making in supervision as art therapy professionals and their feeling of responsibility as role models.

The findings showed that when supervisors empathized with supervisees’ difficulties, they reacted by using art-making; and when supervisors used art-making in supervision, they were able to become more empathetic in the supervisory relationship through the supervisees’ artworks. Moreover, supervisors recognized their responsibility as role-models for supervisees to use art-making in working with their own clients.



Number of Pages


Included in

Art Therapy Commons




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