Thesis Title

Navigating a Path to Multicultural Awareness and Sensitivity as an Art Therapist

Graduation Date

Fall 2010

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


Lisa Bjerknes, MD, MBA

First Reader

Laury Rappaport, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Ellen McCabe-Wackwitz, LMFT, ART-BC


As the United States is experiencing rapidly changing shifts toward a more demographic society, therapists are providing services to a greater number of ethnic and minority clients. In order to promote the development of cultural awareness and sensitivity as an art therapist a variety of experiences are needed. The purpose of this research was to discover development of culturally responsive psychotherapy and art therapy through the insights, experiences, knowledge and skills of Masters level Notre Dame de Namur University Art Therapy Psychology students and graduates. The researcher conducted a two-hour Focus group. The Focus group included'a narrative discussion and art directives answering the questions: (1) What insights, experiences, and strategies are necessary in order to become culturally aware and sensitive as an art therapist? (2) What is missing from art therapy training programs? (3)What is suggested in order for the field of Art Therapy to be more culturally responsible? The qualitative data results were integrated from the Focus group discussion, individual stories and artwork from the Focus group participants. The overall findings of “Navigating a path to multicultural awareness and sensitivity as an art therapist” are: The art making process has a significant effect on the focus group discussion and found results. The components of culture according to the research findings are (1) people’s family history, (2) language and communication style, (3) gender, (4) sexual orientation, (5) education, (6) socioeconomic status, (7) and physical appearance. The research also found the necessary insights, experiences and strategies to becoming culturally competent are (1) personal experiences and insights, (2) social experiences and insights and (3) education. Finally the research found the needs in art therapy to becoming culturally competent to be (1) personal responsibility, (2) academic programs responsibility, and (3) ongoing and continued education. This study highlights the importance of multicultural competence in the field of art therapy psychology and the significance of one’s individual history in relevance to awareness and sensitivity as an art therapist