Date of Award

Spring May 2011

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


This study explored how two LMU Art Therapy alumni were impacted by client-initiated premature termination, specifically when their clients stopped treatment without providing a reason. All that physically remained when their clients left was their art. The literature review explored the discrepancy between client’s and therapist’s perspectives on treatment duration and reasons for termination. While the art therapy literature explored art techniques to prepare for termination, there was no research on premature termination. Through qualitative approach utilizing interviews and art-based inquiry, art therapists in this study provided reflective perspectives and personal accounts of their experience. The study also explored participants’ interpretations of their client’s art from their final therapy session. Responsive art-making allowed art therapists to depict what they would want their clients to know now. Three themes emerged from analysis of the interviews and art responses: Art therapists’ residual feelings for their clients; Using art to convey the power differential in the therapeutic relationship; and Using art to convey well wishes, clarification, and containment—all stemming from the ambiguity of the unexpected ending. The choice to terminate treatment this way was the clients’ right. The power to create closure through art was the art therapists’. The art therapy field may benefit from future studies that address potential art techniques that help art therapists process the lasting impact of client-initiated premature termination.