Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Denise Malis


Establishing a sense of psychological and emotional safety and security is essential within the therapeutic workspace for individuals to begin growth toward identified goals. Beginning in early childhood and developing throughout their lifespan, people build expectations of safety and security from their experiences of nurture or lack thereof. These early experiences form internal working models (IWM), which influence how individuals expect interpersonal relationships to develop; these patterns form attachment styles. Understanding someone’s attachment style is a way mental health professionals may better understand a client from a more holistic perspective. While there is much research in identifying and assessing a person’s attachment style, existing research places less emphasis on the client’s perspective and experience of their history, which forms these patterns. This thesis focuses on developing a three-phase method in art therapy that expands upon an existing assessment of attachment, called the Bird’s Nest Drawing (BND). This expansion utilizes narrative theory (NT), specifically externalization, to explore client history and bring clarity to client experience, emotion, and perception. Informed by the expressive therapies continuum (ETC), the development of this method resulted in three art and story exercises, using drawing, collage, and watercolor paint to deepen the client’s experience and expression. This thesis focused on a population of latency age children engaged in weekly outpatient therapy. This method allowed young clients to assert a sense of agency in sharing their own stories. Information gathered across the phases of this method help to inform the art therapist’s understanding of what is happening dynamically in session and illuminates how attachment styles are activated and may be reworked in session.

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.




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