Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2015

First Advisor

Shelly Goebl-Parker

Second Advisor

P. Gussie Klorer

Third Advisor

Megan Robb


This purpose of this research study was to explore if and how art therapists utilize the theory of meaning making in trauma treatment. A secondary aim was to investigate art therapist’s perspectives and application of the theory of posttraumatic growth. Semi-structured interviews were used to investigate how twelve art therapists conceptualized trauma treatment, meaning making and posttraumatic growth. Study participants were all female, located in a wide variety of mental health settings across the United States, with experience spanning four to 34 years. Major findings included that while nine out of twelve participants found meaning making was important to healing from trauma, many differed in both definition and application of the concept. The research study also produced mixed results in response to questions about posttrauamtic growth as a goal of therapy, yet illuminated the themes of identity reformulation, metaphor, and transformative art as potential avenues of meaning making. Findings also revealed that while the use of the phase models of trauma treatment in art therapy is growing, participants concurred over phase 1 and less so on phase 2 art therapy goals and procedures. Even fewer participants referenced but did not elaborate on phase 3 of trauma treatment. These findings suggest that currently meaning making as a therapeutic mechanism in art therapy trauma treatment is not being consistently applied or understood. The implication is that there is great opportunity to develop meaning making and growth oriented art therapy goals and procedures in both phase 2 and phase 3 of trauma treatment.

Included in

Art Therapy Commons