Thesis Title

Healing from Eating Disorders: The Journey from Narrative Writing to Art Therapy

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

Roberta Hauser, ATR-BC


This study examines the use of narrative writing therapy and art therapy in the treatment of eating disorders. Given that current treatments for eating disorders are only minimally successful, research into more effective treatments are necessary. This research sought to determine what the addition of art making contributed to the narrative writing process about the healing journey through an eating disorder, as well as, to ascertain what the implications of combining art making and writing about an eating disorder are for art therapy. Four women that have suffered from eating disorders and had previously written a published healing narrative about their experience participated in this study. A qualitative and art-based research methodology was used to carry out this research and to examine the experience of participants. Through this methodology, narrative themes in questionnaire responses and artwork were revealed. Themes include that: writing a narrative was a healing and cathartic process, creating a art piece reflecting ones narrative was liberating and rewarding and participating in this research led to reflection, as well continued the healing and recovery process of participants. The study concludes that the combination of writing a healing narrative and creating a piece of art to reflect their struggle with an eating disorder to be a process furthered ones recovery from an eating disorder.