Plaster Hand Casting With Adolescents as a Means of Building Identity

Graduation Date

Spring 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


Gregory White, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Gwen Sanders, MFT, ART-BC


This research study aimed at exploring the relationship between the art intervention of hand casting in a group of adolescents and identity development. The sculptural intervention of hand casting involved draping plaster strips over the hand to form a mold. The finished product could then be decorated and a surrounding holding environment created. A qualitative method of data gathering and analysis as developed by James and Sunnie Kidd (1990) was employed in order to evoke and report experiential thoughts immediately following completion of the hand cast.

Questionnaires containing open-ended questions involving the experience of being in the cast, thoughts and feelings upon viewing the cast and how the hand cast experience may have changed sense of self were administered to each subject. An interview was conducted with the researcher after each questionnaire was completed in order to clarify the meanings of questions and explore questions in more depth.

The results of the process varied from subject to subject. Some participants reported no change in their sense of self and others reported that their sense of self was not changed but strengthened. The most common theme that emerged was that subjects saw themselves and their abilities as a person in a new way. A few subjects reported that they were not sure or did not know how the cast may have affected their sense of self.

The importance of plaster hand casting to address identity issues and implications for future research are discussed.

Only available in print