Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Kellogg Kellogg


“Toxic masculinity” is a rigid form of masculine expression in the United States and other Western countries that espouses traditional norms of expression such as stoicism, power over others, control, aggression, and subjugation of women. Research has shown that it is detrimental to men’s mental health, and strict adherence to it is associated with higher rates of loneliness, depression, suicidal ideation, and violence. Earlier theories that have addressed toxic masculinity, such as the gender role strain paradigm, have taken a more pathological lens. However, the positive psychology/positive masculinity theory and relational cultural theory—contemporary theoretical frameworks that focus on healthy masculinity—show promise in supporting men’s mental health. In addition, research shows that expressive arts therapy, an orientation that incorporates all art forms into a therapeutic context, has the potential to alleviate mental illness and address men’s unique needs.

This thesis explores how a positive masculinity framework, in conjunction with expressive arts therapy, can help develop healthy masculinity in adult men. To do so, an intervention was carried out over a four-week period with a twenty-year-old, cisgender, heterosexual, upper-middle-class Armenian-American man suffering from recurrent depression and passive suicidal ideation. The process included four weekly, 45-minute-long sessions in a group private practice setting with access to art materials such as magazines, clay, and digital music. Findings from the intervention suggest that familial and communal relationships play significant roles in shaping a man’s understanding of masculinity; that role models of healthy masculinity are not as ubiquitous as models of toxic masculinity; and that the creative process, along with reflective discussion within a safe relationship, can help foster healthier expressions of masculinity.

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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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