Thesis Title

The Art and Science of Art Therapy

Graduation Date

Summer 2004

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Neil Marshall, PhD


This thesis makes the claim that the majority of contemporary art therapists are failing to recognize or appreciate the relationship between science and art. As long as the field is divided by the group that states, “art heals” and the group that states,” we need to generate outcome studies”, we remain static, unable to communicate with others within the field and certainly deficient when asked by neighboring disciplines, “Why art therapy?’. It seems as if the art therapy profession is suffering from an identity crisis. As a result of this crisis some art therapists identify with the shaman archetype. The idea is that art is healing, and symbols derived from the art are messages from the soul. The art therapist as shaman helps the client reclaim his or her soul using art as the medium. This identification is often scrutinized by art therapists who feel that the field must generate empirical data to support claims such as “art heals”. There are a few researchers in the field but they are the minority. The researcher introduces the idea that science and art coevolved. There exists strong evidence that art is an integral part of human behavior and that it is and has been necessary for the survival of humankind. Science and art are overlapping disciplines. When viewed in this context research is less daunting and can be considered a creative endeavor. The art therapist at work is tapping into the power of ancient art- saturated rituals. Healing is multimodal and is accomplished by attending to many aspects of the environment. The researcher studied science, art, and mythology and surveyed art therapists to gain a better understanding of their views on the identity of the profession, the duality inherent in the art therapy profession, and research.