Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of personal art making on the identity and practice of the professional art therapist. This qualitative study explored the subjective experience of six female professional art therapists. Interviews were conducted and participants were asked about their personal art-making, art therapy practice, and the meaning of their professional identity. A narrative methodology, the Listening Guide, was applied to the interview data and emphasized each participant’s voice and use of expressive language. Data from this study established a three-fold identity for the professional art therapist: counselor, artist, and art therapist. Confidence in and validation surrounding each identity varied. The counselor identity included two themes: (1) attitudes towards art therapy and (2) challenges of multirole positions. The artist identity was linked to the art therapy identity through art making. In the art therapy identity three categories were found: (1) employment experiences, (2) art-making, and (3) the practice of art therapy. The four themes in the practice of art therapy theme were: (1) materials, (2) connection, (3) appreciation, and (4) awareness. Specific aspects of care and visual embellishment emerged that were particular to the field of art therapy. The themes and sub-themes in the artist and art therapist identities link aesthetic sensitivities and art therapy practice with relational care. This study’s findings established the aesthetics of care in practice: a model of relational, empathetic care that is based in aesthetic sensibilities. The significance of this research differentiates art therapy as a unique practice of therapeutic care situated within the threefold identity of counselor, artist, and art therapist. Findings suggest that the lived experience of professional identity for the novice art therapist is significant and challenging. Results from this research provide recommendations for educators, supervisors and art therapists in the field.

Number of Pages


Included in

Art Therapy Commons




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