Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Kelvin Ramirez


Adolescents in residential treatment programs throughout the United States are a specialized population that demonstrate resiliency and hope every day. Many adolescents in these programs have experienced prominent levels of trauma that impact their ability to function in lower-level programs, foster homes, and in their communities. Residential treatment approaches may look like locked facilities with trauma-informed staff who provide programming options, mental health care, and safe living conditions for adolescents. Without strength-based approaches to treatment, this population may struggle to overcome their trauma, mental health challenges, and developmental needs. In this literature review, art therapy was offered to provide developmentally appropriate healing from trauma, coping strategies, and provide adolescents with tangible skills. The intersection of residential treatment programs, art therapy, and social justice mental health care was explored to understand the barriers, limitations, and possibilities of this unique area of mental health treatment. Drawing from liberation theory practices in current mental health programs, this review identifies methods for the implementation of art therapy in similar settings for adolescents, envisioning a future where these interventions are more widely utilized. Recommendations are offered for optimal, social-justice-informed art therapy experiences in residential treatment programs.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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