Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Tim Reagan



Stress in schools has become an increasing problem within the United States. Adolescents struggle with high rates and high levels of anxiety due to many pressures surrounding them, especially expectations from school. Due to their growing brains, stress and anxiety during this time can affect future functioning. It is crucial that teens learn ways to manage stress levels now, so they can develop healthy coping skills that can continue into adulthood. There has been plenty of research on art therapy and its benefits for mental health in this population. This study investigates the effects of abstract art on stress in adolescents attending high school in an affluent neighborhood. By using watercolors on yupo paper (a synthetic, nonporous paper), students were led away from the cognitive/symbolic level of the expressive therapies continuum (ETC), and brought into the perceptual/affective and kinesthetic/sensory levels. Results showed that throughout this process some directives were more stressful, while some were very stress relieving. Many students found this process enjoyable, relaxing, and experienced a shift in stress levels. Other students did not experience this same shift. More research is needed to learn about the effects of abstract art and stress levels on adolescents.

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




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