Thesis Title

Creative solutions for a better relationship: Utilizing art therapy to improve communication in cross-cultural couple counseling

Graduation Date

Spring 2016

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


John Lemmon, PhD

First Reader

Jennifer Harrison, PsyD, ATR-BC, DAAETS

Second Reader

Arnell Etherington-Reader, PHD, ATR-BC, MFT


The hypothesis of this research study was that art therapy would help cross-cultural couples improve their communication skills through better understanding of each other’s cultural differences. Five cross-cultural couples were selected, composed of one partner from an individualistic culture and another partner from a collectivistic culture. Participant couples were married or in a committed relationship and have experienced conflicts and/or communication challenges. Each couple participated in one single art therapy session and the session lasted for two hours. Each partner was asked to complete the same art interventions individually and then encouraged to share his or her art piece and process with his or her partner. Demographic assessment, Pretest and repeated posttest questionnaires, and their artwork were used for quantitative and qualitative analysis. A Primary Communication Inventory (PCI) and a Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) were used for pretest and posttest to see potential changes after the art therapy session. Results indicated a statistically significant increase in communication and relationship satisfactions within the couples in the study. The research findings may provide support for art therapy as an alternative modality to help cross-cultural couples experiencing challenges or issues in their relationship. The findings of this study may also be helpful to art therapists working with cross-cultural couples.