Date of Award

Spring April 2016

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 role of the art therapist in a nonclinical setting. The research dissects the experiences of nine art therapists who participated in an artist residency that was informed by art therapy but was not clinically based. The spectrum of literature reviewed focused on the professional identity of art therapists and therapists as well as social action art therapy and working with Native American cultures. A qualitative approach was utilized through the conduction of a focus group along with four individual interviews, which were both enhanced by a parallel art making process. Analysis of the data resulted in four significant themes: illuminating strengths and activating existing resources, containment, chaos, and finding hope amidst inadequacy. The findings were triangulated with the art therapy literature reviewed on the identity of the art therapist as well as leading art therapists’ visions for the field’s future. The research accentuates the complexity and significance of art therapists participating culturally informed, with underserved communities and redefining their role in order to carry out that purpose. In sum, the research offers insight into how art therapists can creatively and with great sensitivity, “meet clients where they are at”.