Patients Dealing With Terminal Illness Through the use of Creative Art Therapy

Graduation Date

Spring 2005

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

Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC


This grant proposal plans to investigate the use of art therapy with the terminally ill population. The researcher plans to incorporate creative expression while engaging the patient in verbal talk therapy centered on the patient’s “life review” from a narrative/existential perspective. The hypothesis is that these combined processes will help the patient seek some resolution to their current life situation by providing art as a creative emotional outlet to express their feelings about illness, treatment, and death.

This process will help to encourage emotional adjustment and promote well-being in the terminal patient’s life. Participants of this research project are patients currently participating in the Transitions program at Hospice of the Valley in San Jose, California. Patients participating in this study have been given the prognosis of one year or less to live whether or not they are undergoing curative treatment. The study will take place where the patient currently resides, such as the patients home, hospital, or special care facility where they are receiving continuous care. At the end of eight sessions, the researcher will conduct an exit interview with the patient. This will provide the researcher the opportunity to qualitatively assess any changes that may have occurred as a result of participating in this project. The researcher will also administer a pre- and post- test of the Missoula-VITAS Quality of Life Index. This instrument is a self-reported subjective assessment tool that was designed to measure the quality of life of a terminally ill patient based on the patient’s social-emotional level of functioning and personal rating of their overall well-being.