A Comparison of Art Material Preferences in Anorexia and Bulima Nervosa: A Survey of Clinicians

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

Gwen Sanders, MFT, ART-BC


Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are debilitating mental disorders which are among the most difficult to treat. Although these disorders have similarities in the sense that individuals with either anorexia or bulimia have issues around eating and their relationship to food, they differ in many ways. This study addresses some of these differences, and particularly how these differences relate to individuals with either anorexia or bulimia with regard to their use of art media while engaged in art therapy. The hypothesis of this study was that individuals diagnosed with anorexia nervosa were more likely to use art materials on the controlled end of the spectrum and those diagnosed with bulimia nervosa were more likely to use art materials on the less controlled end. In order to investigate the trends in art material use by individuals with eating disorders, a survey was sent to clinicians who have utilized art interventions to treat individuals with eating disorders. Out of 104 clinicians who received the survey, 32 completed it. Both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data was conducted, and the results confirmed the research hypothesis.

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