Thesis Title

Increasing Empathy with Adults using Empathy Focused Art-Making Directives

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

Amy Backos, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Amy Hill, MFT, ATR-BC


This research study explored art making as a means of increasing empathy in adults. The researcher asked participants (n=23) to create three empathy-focused art activities along with reflective journal entries that were submitted online over the course of five weeks. Pre and posttest data was collected that included the Basic Empathy Scale (BES) and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). Paired sample t-tests were conducted to compare pre and posttest scores. Results indicated that there was a significant difference in the scores on the BES suggesting that creating art in a weekly basis helped increase empathy levels among the participants. There were no significant differences in the scores on the IRI. Raters found common themes in the art and journal entries, therefore contributed evidence to the hypothesis that setting a time weekly to self-reflect through art making, can contribute to individuals’ empathetic recognition for self and others. Individuals’ interpersonal connections to others can deepen through the use of creative art making, altering environmental factors that might restrict from contributing to society with an empathetic approach. This study contributes to the field of art therapy research and the importance of art making can be to increase empathetic awareness for societies around the globe.