Thesis Title

Seeing Resilience: A Qualitative and Arts-Based Research Study to Understand Images Made in a Photography-Based Mentoring Program

Graduation Date

Spring 2020

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Art Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Caryl Hodges, Phd

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Amy Backos, PhD, ATR-BC


This qualitative and arts-based research study focused on understanding the phenomenon of youth and adult experiences in self-efficacy, mentoring relationships, and connection to the program community as they cumulatively contribute to youth resilience in a photography-based mentoring program. The present study aimed to validate and expand upon results of earlier quantitative program evaluation reports about the program’s overall effectiveness and resilience-building approach through the use of photographs and writing as data from program participants (n = 34) who submitted materials based on prompts and contributed to meaning making in a response process designed to gather a holistic and sensory experience of the data. The phenomena of self-efficacy, mentoring relationships, and connection to the program community as resilience-building experiences are described through Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis, which drew on the photographs and writings, as well as program participants’ understandings of the submitted materials. The findings presented successfully validate and expand on existing evaluation results, resulting in a rich and more nuanced understanding of youth experiences of self-efficacy, youth and adult experiences of their mentoring relationships, and all participants’ connections to the program community as they contribute to overall youth resilience. The results suggest a new set of proposed mechanisms of change from combining art making and youth mentoring that have relevance for the fields of art therapy and youth mentoring, as ways to combine the dual interventions to enhance impact, and for general programming involving creativity for youth and non-clinical ally adults.