Thesis Title

Empowering Korean Adolescent Girls Using Smartphones as a Stimulus for Creative Expression: Response Art and Dialogue

Graduation Date

Fall 2019

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Art Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


This mixed method art therapy research was conducted to address the creative and emotional potential of 33 Korean adolescent girls by using the stimulus of a smartphone in a therapeutic setting for six sessions. As the smartphone is central to their personal and cultural expression, the intent was to channel their smartphone preoccupations towards more creative and productive expressions. By helping them to foster their use of personal devices in more divergent and expressive ways, the researcher’s therapeutic work addressed the rampant escapism and high levels of academic stress that have been identified as a societal malaise. As a therapeutic stimulus, the protocol began by using the smartphone as a leisurely, cultural, and developmental intervention, which was found to increase the quality and quantity of fruitful communications. The three phases of the protocol and intervention were as follows: (a) using the smartphone as a motivational stimulus, (b) using response art as an opportunity to elaborate on smartphone imagery, and (c) engaging in an art dialogue, in which the adolescents expanded their self-expression. The project was conceived within the postmodern paradigm of mixing theoretical approaches employing both cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic orientations. The intervention was measured quantitatively by the Participant’s Phenomenological Scale, which was developed by the researcher, and qualitative results were gleaned from 182 process notations, as well as the Researcher’s Self-Phenomenological Scale, and the Program Evaluation. The study hypothesized that the participants would increasingly be able to utilize their stimulus and engage in smartphone expressions as a pathway to exploring their individual voices, to use their smartphones as a channel to evolve their own personal and cultural expressions through response art, to show an increase in their ability to engage in dialogue regarding their response art, and develop a rapport with the researcher over the duration of the intervention. All hypotheses were supported. The stimulus intervention and creative outcomes were found to have a positive impact, however modest, to the developmental and culturally syntonic maturational process of participants, within a population that suffers from societal/familial oppression, repression, and obsession. The quantitative and qualitative findings form a unique body of knowledge, one that the researcher maintains contribute to the knowledge base of the creative arts therapy field.