Healing Anxiety Associated With Sudden Loss Trauma Via a Group Art Therapy Experience

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

Patrick Arbore, EdD


The Institute on Aging is seeking support to establish an innovative art therapy sudden loss support group under the direction of Myriam Martinez. Individuals who suffer the sudden death of a loved one experience increased symptomology associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Kaltman & Bonnano, 2001) Sudden loss carries its own type of intense grief response and is associated with prolonged trauma. Posttraumatic loss debriefing is traditionally conducted using a group therapeutic process. (Thompson, 1993) The group environment can assist the individuals in processing their grief by providing them a support network and an opportunity to associate with people who have experienced similar losses. (Doka, 1996) Art therapy can further assist in the debriefing and healing process as current trauma literature notes that imagery- specific techniques are among the most effective in reducing PTSD symptomology. (Van der Kolk, et al, 1996) Art making uses metaphor and projection which aid in the expression of conscious and unconscious processes as well as the sheltered expression of emotion. (Levy, Grove, Berberian, Brigmon, Gonzalez, and Koepfer, 2002). The proposed art therapy sudden loss support group will provide individuals with a group forum in which participants will be given a creative outlet for the expression of their thoughts and feelings associate with their grief and trauma. The process of creating art and expressing feelings will facilitate the grief process. The supportive group environment will help combat isolation by offering a sense of connection and mutual understanding for its participant. The art therapy sudden loss support group is proposed to start in September, 2004 for a total cost of $2,634.57.

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