Thesis Title

Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Chinese American Women Cancer Survivors Through Art Therapy

Graduation Date

Fall 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


Caryl Hodges, EdD

First Reader

Jennifer Harrison, PsyD, ATR-BC, DAAETS

Second Reader

Deann Acton, MA, MFT, ATR-BC


A diagnosis of cancer bears unique physical and psychological burdens which lead to a level of distress that cannot be equated with any other chronic disease. Prolonged stress has been found to have a negative impact on morbidity, mortality, and quality of life for cancer survivors. As the number of cancer patients and survivors continue to increase in the U.S., so does the diversity of the population, making it increasingly important to understand and address the unique psychological needs of culturally different cancer groups. The purpose of this study was to explore the efficacy of art therapy on reducing stress and instilling hope for Chinese American immigrant cancer survivors, an underserved ethnic group in the mental health service community. A mixed methods approach was applied, using the DASS21 and Herth Hope Index (HHI) for quantitative data, and the Bridge Drawing art directive for qualitative data. Findings from this research revealed a reduction in stress after a single session of art therapy, along with positive responses for its use from this population of cancer survivors. However, the study did not show similar outcomes with its efficacy in instilling hope. Nevertheless, these results showed promise in supporting art therapy as a viable form of psychotherapy that is culturally appropriate and congruent with this ethnic population’s beliefs and practices in addressing their emotional and psychological needs as they relate to their unique cancer experience.