Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


This mixed-methods longitudinal study sought to describe, understand, and explain the professional development (PD) of graduate students during art therapy (AT), dance movement therapy (DMT), and drama therapy (DT) training (N = 51).

Repeated measures of students’ scores in profession-related variables were performed. Quantitative theory testing probed the extent to which students confirm Rønnestad and Skovholt’s (2003) theory of counselors and therapists’ PD as representative of their pre-training and in-training experiences. Qualitative theory derivation generated data-driven concepts to modify and refine the extant theory. Data were collected using My Vocational Situation, Career Commitment Measurement, and questionnaires for each developmental phase. Data analysis involved descriptive statistics, analyses of variance, correlation analyses, repeated measures, qualitative data quantification, measurements of inter-rater agreement, and thematic analysis.

Results indicate that whereas students’ professional identity and career commitment significantly increased, this increase did not differ between the three modality specializations; yet, scores of DMT and next AT students were overall significantly higher than scores of DT students. Students’ perceived environmental and personal barriers to career decision-making decreased; yet perceived financial barriers slightly increased. Results also revealed that students entered training for various motivations. The results confirm that transition into training provoked stress and anxiety for all students and that most students avoided art making outside of training. In-training arts making, exposure to different modalities, and professional socialization in the field cultivated students’ PI and sense of belonging to the CAT profession. A flow chart displays the emerged model of students’ PD process, policy and practice implications are suggested, and recommendations for further research are offered.



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