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

Paige Asawa


A qualitative, art-based research approach is used in this study to explore the relationship between trauma and eating disorders in art therapy treatment. The literature review illuminates the function, presentation, and treatment of eating disorders and trauma. Adolescent developmental challenges are discussed in relation to eating disorders, given that this is the period when the diagnosis manifests. The nominal research on the use of art therapy for underlying trauma with clients who are in treatment for eating disorders suggests the importance of considering the implications for the field of art therapy. Two-semi-structured, art-based interviews are the primary data gathering component in understanding the connection between eating disorders and trauma. An axial coding process is used to analyze the textual and visual data to reveal emergent themes. The results of the analysis process suggest that art, which bypasses verbal defenses, allows the client to access and externalize internal experiences such as trauma. The study also reveals the interconnected nature of eating disorders and trauma. The findings recommend future study of this relationship and the necessity of addressing significant traumatic experiences in addition to abuse and most importantly to acknowledge trauma as a primary focus of treatment.