Date of Award

Spring 2018

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


This qualitative research study used art to illuminate the experiences of therapists who work and diagnose children who have experienced trauma. Previous literature informed the current study by exploring the history of trauma-related diagnoses in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), literature related to complex trauma and developmental trauma, and the art therapy research related to treating and diagnosing trauma. This study used interview methodology to acquire firsthand accounts of therapists currently working with and diagnosing children who have experienced trauma, and were asked to create art to help illustrate their experiences. Analyzing the participants artwork and interview transcriptions allowed for four themes to emerge: Child’s perspective, Therapist’s perspective, Caregiver’s perspective, and Administrative Process. Further investigation into these themes revealed several findings: the limitations of the administrative process, developmental inconsistency, and the lack of a developmental understanding of death related to the DSM-5 criteria. This research also suggests that art can be used as a tool to help access the child’s perspective, and provide the therapist with a more comprehensive understanding of the child’s world.