Thesis Title

Group Art Therapy to Reduce Stress in Aging and Elderly People with Intellectual Disabilities

Graduation Date

Spring 2011

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

Angel Duncan, MFT, ATR


This mixed methods study researched the application of group art therapy with elderly people with intellectual disabilities to reduce stress. The researcher hypothesized that implementing art therapy groups with aging and elderly people with intellectual disabilities would reduce stress and increase effective coping skills. The research question posed was: how would implementing art therapy groups positively impact group participants? There were 13 participants in the study. The Draw-a-Person-in-the-Rain art assessment and the Lifestress Inventory were used to obtain pre and post measures. The collected quantitative data was unreliable. The qualitative and art-based findings included major themes, and revealed that the art therapy treatment was influential in reducing stress and increasing positive coping skills. As an outcome of this study, the following themes contribute to the knowledge about this population: establishing identity, perseveration, hesitancy, mastery and ownership, and relaxation.