Date of Award

Spring April 2017

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


This capstone project explores the themes and principles of the Clinical Art Therapy MFT graduate program at Loyola Marymount University to a clinical case study.

The purpose of the study is to provide a comprehensive overview of the connections between academic learning and its clinical application, and to illustrate the role of academic learning in identity formation for a student. It incorporates the therapist’s own art making process as a part of the inquiry strategy.

Personal identity, as defined by Mason and Vella (2013) are “those things that distinguish individuals from each other”, and which may require effort “something to be invented rather than discovered” (p.236). In art making, the process and the creation of the art product support the assumption that the creation of identity involves an internalization of social influence and it requires invention.

Identity formation in children, according to social theory, occurs in context of the family, and significant others, whereas values and attitudes about self place them in society. Art teachers can use this to help “problematize mythical and stereotypical representations of childhood and family relations and increase awareness of multiple viewpoints (Trafl, 2008). These viewpoints can be reflected upon in art therapy increasing self-awareness by contemplating alternative viewpoints and perspectives in a supportive environment.

Cognitive psychologists understand self-awareness as a key indicator of personal identity (Leary and Tangney,2003. p3). Henriques views the human ego as a self-awareness system (as cited in Schaffer, 2005, p. 50), with the capacity to use ones mind as an analogy of the minds of others, including differences in perspective and in recognizing the limits of what others know (p.50).

According to Mason and Vella (2013), individuals develop a self-image via their reflection very early in life, and they may decide to change themselves due to the judgments of the people they interact with, or perhaps, rebel against change. These stages of development transform identity. The self-portrait can assist in one’s examination of one’s changing self and evolving self-schema contributing to self-awareness in the context of the therapeutic relationship.

Charles Horton Cooley, interested in the development of the self, formulated The Looking Glass Self-Theory (as cited in Schaffer, 2005, p.53) which posits that people’s self-image is based on how they suppose others perceive them, and that the looking glass self is actually the product of an active process of construction through the developing mode of imagination (p.53).

This phenomenon can play out in the therapeutic relationship as transference and counter-transference, and can be used to examine personal identity in the process of reflecting upon one self, in the supposition of how the other perceives them.

The art therapist’s identity evolves in the context of the therapeutic relationship, whereas she is providing her self to the other, and in her understanding of how she is perceived by the other, that her self-awareness and self identity becomes known to her.