The Use of Group Art Therapy to Facilitate the Development of Identity with Adolescents in a Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Center

Graduation Date

Summer 2006

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


Judith Maxwell Greig, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC


This thesis is a grant proposal to the East Bay Community Foundation for the development of an ongoing art therapy group for male and female adolescents with a dual diagnosis in a long-term residential substance abuse treatment center. The intervention is a 10 week art therapy group with a focus on identity development. The literature review focuses on three main areas: the disentanglement of the sober identity, adolescent development, and the use of art as an intervention within the realms of substance abuse. The recovery aspect of the intervention has a theoretical foundation in Goffman’s (1963) concept of disentanglement and the construction of a new identity. The viewpoint researched on adolescent development stems from James Marcia’s (1966, 1980) operationalization of Erikson’s (1959) identity vs. diffusion stage of development. After exploring the link between identity and successful recovery, the use of art therapy as a possible effective intervention is explored.

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