Date of Award

Spring 3-12-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Robyn Cruz


Complicated grief (CG) has come to be a common enough occurrence in mental health treatment to warrant research, literature, and discussion of markers, causes, prevalence, symptoms, measures, and treatment protocols. Art therapy presents one possible mode of treatment for individuals suffering from CG, and yet few art therapists know about CG or have training in this area. A systematic review of art therapy programs and educational requirements showed no current standards or training requirements for grief or CG. Art therapists are master’s trained clinicians who work with people with a variety of mental health challenges, and training in CG may benefit the clients art therapists serve. Incorporating a unit on CG into graduate art therapy programs may be an effective way of addressing this relevant topic and introducing it into the education of art therapists.

The aim of this research was to elicit recommendations for CG education for art therapists by engaging professional art therapists in a CG workshop. Ten participants attended the CG and art therapy workshop and focus group; three participants were professional art therapists, two were art therapy master’s students, one was a high-school student, and four were counseling master’s students. After the didactic part of the workshop, participants engaged in an art-making experience, completion of an individual questionnaire, and a focus group discussion. I coded data with preset themes I took from the literature on CG and with emergent themes.

I used the findings to generate recommendations for the field, which include teaching a unit or module on CG to art therapists during their master’s training. This module should include a history of grief theory, CG definition, causes, symptoms, prevalence, measures, interventions, differential diagnoses, current research, art therapy and creative approaches to grief, and a history of art as a vehicle for grief. It should also include an opportunity to create art and explore grief and CG, both academically and personally, as well as post-art group processing experience. Training art therapists in CG could allow them to serve their clients better.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



Number of Pages





The author owns the copyright to this work.