The Effects of Art Therapy on the Self-Esteem of a Subject Exhibiting Dieting and Overeating Behavior

Graduation Date

Spring 1990

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


This paper examined how art therapy and psycho­therapy were utilized to affect the self-esteem of a subject exhibiting dieting and overeating behavior. The hypothesis of this research was that the combined therapies would result in increased self-esteem. Though self-esteem is a major issue of both the eating-disordered population and an individual exhibiting dieting and overeating behavior, the subject has never had an eating disorder diagnosis. The case study was a 43-year-old, 5 foot-4 inch, woman presently weighing 205 pounds. The subject's self-esteem Issues appeared to be similar to various issues of the eating-disordered population. During and after her college years, the subject has unsuccessfully attempted to control her eating behavior, and thus her weight, by various fad diets and weight loss programs. In depth self-exploration and self-awareness were minimally addressed in the previous attempts to lose weight. This study attempted to correlate eight sessions of art therapy with the resulting effects on the self-esteem of a subject exhibiting dieting and overeating behavior and how that behavior was related to the eating-disordered population. The client’s initial self-approval was reflected in the pre-test score, her verbal comments, and the clinical observations. The client's self-esteem, as measured by the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventories (SEI) decreased from a pre-test score of 92 to a post-test score of 68. This decrease in self-esteem may reflect the client's growth in self-awareness through art therapy and psychotherapy and the limitations of the instruments. The Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), which is used to assess the psychological and behavioral traits common in eating disorders, was used as a screening tool. The EDI indicated weight-preoccupation. Post-test increased scores on the EDI in ''Body Dissatisfaction, Perfectionism and Interoceptive Awareness" may reflect the link between the multideterminal nature of eating disorders and the subject's overeating and dieting behavior. The EDI and the SEI post-tests may indicate an increased awareness in the subject's behaviors and attitudes. An analysis of the art therapy further supported the client's increased insight into the inner self as demonstrated by the client s artwork.