The Use of the Mandala as a Coping Strategy in Breast Cancer Patients

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

Toni Morely, MFT, ATR


This paper outlines a grant proposal for breast cancer patients’ coping strategies and the effect of mandala drawing as a coping mechanism. Mandalas have been used by art therapists as a way of connecting with the self. Mandalas can be free drawn or colored in and can be used for meditation or free expression purposes. The mandalas in this study will be free drawn and will reflect how one is coping with cancer and the drawings will be based on the use of the MAC (Mental Adjustment to Cancer) Scale (Watson, Greer, Young, Inayat, Burgess, and Robertson, 1988). The MAC scale (see Appendix D) evaluates how individuals have adjusted to cancer by their responses to five categories: “fighting spirit,” “helpless/hopeless,” “anxious preoccupation,” “fatalistic,” and “avoidance.” The MAC scale will be given as a pre-test to evaluate where a patient’s coping response is at the beginning of the series of sessions and as a post-test to determine if there has been any change in mental adjustment following the mandala interventions. As an added variable, the use of guided imagery will help participants to relax and promote a healing environment for the patients to draw the mandalas. The objectives of this study include assessing for coping skills, providing a path to recovery through creative expression by drawing mandalas, creating an awareness of one’s coping skills and sharing experiences promoting community support and relationship building.

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