Thesis Title

A Qualitative Study with Art Therapists on the Use of Art as Self-Care in Addressing Vicarious Trauma

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

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC


This study sought to discover how art therapists use art for self-care to prevent vicarious trauma.

To expand upon current research, the researcher conducted a qualitative study through facilitating semi-structured interviews with ten art therapist participants and recording their experiences in using art as self-care to address vicarious trauma. Seven themes emerged, which included the therapists experiencing the following: extemalization, connecting with Art Therapists, engagement in spirituality, gaining access to insight and meaning, bringing the unconscious into conscious awareness, transformation, and finally, an improved mood. This study highlights the benefits art therapists experience through artmaking to prevent and manage vicarious trauma.