Thesis Title

The Role of Thematic Art Therapy in Quality of Life Issues with Older Adults Diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment

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


This research explores the question: How does a modified version of Madori’s TTAP method impact the experience of well-being and quality of life for a group of older adults with mild cognitive impairment? A single group pre-experimental, qualitative research design was used to observe the behavior of an available intact group. The study focused on insight and interpretation that emerged from observation, art, field notes, audio and video recordings of eight participants in six weekly group meetings at an adult day services center. Through an analysis of participant statements and observations, eight key themes emerged: 1) feeling content; 2) the importance of relationships; 3) reminiscence; 4) living with loss; 5) struggles with thinking and communicating; 6) attitudes of adaptation; 7) feeling worthy or capable; and 8) attitudes about being in the group. These statements illustrate that older adults can learn new ways of self- expression with interventions such as thematic programming that incorporate the retained abilities and strengths of this population.