Date of Award

Spring April 2013

Access Restriction

Campus Access only Research Projects

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Marital and Family Therapy

School or College

College of Communication and Fine Arts

First Advisor

Debra Linesch


Through the lens of a participatory design (PD) approach, this study explored to find qualifying features and qualities of digital art materials, specifically art apps on iPads for art therapy use. The study comprised of two phases: 1) a questionnaire/interview of four art therapists using iPads with clients and 2) four separate focus groups with 15 art therapist and art therapist trainee participants involving multiple stages of cyclic feedback. The focus groups engaged in art directives with nine art making apps identified by the researcher and questionnaire respondents as potentially useful in art therapy. The results revealed that while there was no single commercial art app that satisfied the needs of all art therapists and vast range of clients’ technology skills, artistic abilities, stylistic preferences, and therapeutic needs, three distinct qualities and six concrete features of an “ideal” art app for art therapy use emerged. Additionally, the study’s results expanded the parameters of art therapy’s artmaking practice and visual vocabulary by illustrating digital art media’s potential therapeutic and expressive use. And most importantly, the protection of privacy and confidentiality of client’s digital artwork emerged as one of the most important issue to consider. While this paper discusses the limitless possibilities of digital art media’s meaningful usage in art therapy, it also acknowledges how its unique characteristics may require thoughtful limitations and restrictions.