Date of Award

Spring April 2013

Access Restriction

Research Projects

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Marital and Family Therapy

School or College

College of Communication and Fine Arts

First Advisor

Anthony Nodlovic


This paper is a personal account of the discoveries made during a heuristic study in which the researcher sought to deepen her understanding of the difficulties of ending treatment with adolescent male clients as a female art therapist in training. Through the analysis of reflective artwork created during and after termination at a boys’ home, the researcher uncovered multiple themes as they related to the therapeutic relationship, attachment, transference/countertransference, dreams, vicarious trauma, self-care, and the ambiguity of termination. After reviewing the potential dangers of harmful termination and the paucity of literature on its effect on at-risk youth in group homes, this researcher chose to explore the personal meaning of this topic utilizing heuristic and arts-based methodologies. The process of data collection followed Moustakas’s six heuristic steps, corresponding to each day of the week. Each week, an archival termination art piece was analyzed and a corresponding questionnaire composed of four research questions and an art response was completed. After four weeks of data collection, two cumulative art pieces were finished to summarize research findings. Further dissection of the collective data was completed through a theoretical lens of attachment theory. Results suggested that reflective art making was proven useful to this researcher as a living record of the termination process and therapeutic relationship. To encourage self-care, deeper introspection, and monitoring of one’s expectations of termination, this creative modality could be utilized by other art therapists to externalize, cope with vicarious trauma, contain and process the complicated feelings of letting go.