Date of Award

Spring April 2015

Access Restriction

Research Projects

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Marital and Family Therapy

School or College

College of Communication and Fine Arts

First Advisor

Debra Linesch


This research explores the connection and interaction between literature describing addiction theory and clinical art therapy practice. Literature spanning a wide variety of theoretical understandings of addiction and recovery was reviewed, as well as literature published on the use of art therapy with the substance abuse population. Using the review of the substance abuse literature as a base, key theoretical concepts were identified and formatted into a table that came to serve as a data coding system. Applying case study methodology, this coding system was then utilized as an analysis tool for the art therapy process and artwork of four clients in residential substance abuse treatment. Analysis of the data resulted in the emergence of five prominent themes amongst those listed in the coding system: 1) Intolerance of negative emotion 2) Problematic family dynamics 3) Traumatic experiences 4) Schemas and restructured cognitions and 5) Cultural issues. These findings were then examined in the context of the art therapy literature on substance abuse. The meanings derived from these findings make a case for greater integration between substance abuse literature and art therapy literature, illustrating the utility of clear and organized incorporation of theoretical ideas about addiction into art therapy with substance abuse clients.