Thesis Title

Rite of Passage and Art Therapist Identity Development: Awareness and Meaning

Graduation Date

Spring 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


Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC

First Reader

Laury Rappaport, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC


Every year art therapy students are transitioning into Practicum programs. This transition, an important and essential process to become art therapists often occurs without a rite of passage. This research sought to answer the question: How does a rite of passage ritual for art therapy practicum student impact their sense of professional identity? And proposed a hypothesis: A rite of passage ritual for art therapy practicum students will lead an increase in awareness and a sense of meaning in the experience of professional identity development. Questionnaires. Me-Box, and group discussion processes were used to determine the nature of the relationship between rite of passage and professional identity development as art therapist trainees. An art-based phenomenological mixed methods approach was used in older to evaluate the participants' experience. Research analysis resulted in themes of vulnerability, challenge, awareness, growth, transformation, and community. Results indicated a positive relationship may exist between rite of passage and professional identity development.