Thesis Title

An Art-Based Heuristic Study: How a Male Student with Asperger’s Syndrome Completed an Art Therapy Master’s Program

Graduation Date

Spring 2021

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


This qualitative art-based study utilised heuristic methodology to investigate the relationship between a practice of visual journaling and artmaking and the success of a male individual with Asperger’s Syndrome in an art therapy Master’s program. Supporting the heuristic process, data was collected from artwork made in group and independent visual journaling settings as well as artmaking contemporaneous to the graduate program. From the data analysis and the six stages of the heuristic process (Initial Engagement, Immersion, Incubation, Illumination, Explication, and Creative Synthesis), the following themes emerged: (1) Trauma Tuesday, which included subthemes of Abandonment, Isolation/Exclusion, Purgatory, and Confined in my Asperger’s Body, (2) Cruel Snap Judgements, (3) Vaudeville, (4) Quirky Creativity, (5) Inner Strength, (6) Hope, (7) Nourishing Connections, and (8) Creative Synthesis. The findings were that the data is consistent with prior research on the experience of Asperger’s Syndrome individuals in higher education; the practice of visual journaling and artmaking fostered resilience; and that the data reflect motivation for self-actualisation and transcendence. Two observations on the methodology of the study were outlined. Several Recommendations were proposed. Overall, the study demonstrated that a process of artmaking and visual journaling had a positive influence on the lived experience of the subject while in graduate school.