Art Therapy, Communication and Emotional Expression: Exploring Joint-Drawing Directives with Couples

Graduation Date

Fall 2008

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


Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC

First Reader

Laury Rappaport, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

David Sitzer, PhD


This study explored the use of joint-drawing directives outlined by both Wadeson (1980) and Kwiatkowska (2001), with couples for the purpose of increasing communication and the expression of feelings using a single group, pre-post, within subjects design. It was hypothesized that couples who completed the joint-drawing directives would exhibit an increase in communication. There were 20 participants (10 couples) included in this study, ranging in age from 21 years old to 74 years old. The Primary Communication Inventory (PCI) was used as a pre-test to measure each individual’s verbal and non-verbal communication skills and level of relationship distress. However, the post-test scores were not valid because all of the art therapy directives were given on one day, not leaving time for significant change to develop. The qualitative results indicated increases in the following: feelings of enjoyment; physical closeness and emotional connectedness; communication and understanding; remembering previous significant events and moments related to the partner; seeing new things about the partner; and self- awareness, expression, and reflection. Additional quantitative data gathered from the Post Session Questionnaire yielded information about how the art process reflected or facilitated certain relationship dynamics, such as: sharing information and space, leading and following, learning new information about oneself and partner, and nonverbal communication.

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