Date of Award

Fall 10-30-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Michele Forinash

Second Advisor

Michaela Kirby

Third Advisor

Jayashree George



Midlife for women comprises the ages of roughly 40 to 65 years and is potentially a time of great developmental change. This qualitative and arts-informed study sought to explore the experiences of midlife transition for seven female art therapists who fell within the midlife age range. Participants were asked to create a mandala (circular art piece) for each of six midlife domains: physical/biological, emotional, social-relational, spiritual, intellectual/psychological, and sociocultural. Participants also created one-page artist statements about each mandala and engaged in a telephone interview with the researcher about the artmaking process. Thematic analysis of the written and transcribed data and art analysis of the mandalas yielded concentrated themes of balance, growth, loss/death, and change. Thematic continua were developed for each domain: a growth–decline continuum for the physical/biological and intellectual/psychological domains; a connection–disconnection continuum for the social-relational and emotional domains; and a self–community continuum for the spiritual and sociocultural domains. The major limitation of this study was that no women of color were participants. It is recommended that mental health practitioners pay special attention to women who are in the perimenopausal microstage of menses cessation and midlife transition as the initial experiences of embodied changes can be decentering and anxiety provoking. A focus on art and creative expression at midlife, especially with regard to spirituality and community, is recommended for further inquiry.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



Number of Pages





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