Thesis Title

Art Therapy and Chinese Immigrant Mental Health: Acculturation of Chinese Adolescents in the United States - A Female Chinese Teenager Support Group

Graduation Date

Spring 2013

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


John Lemmon, PhD

First Reader

Amy Backos, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

David Sitzer, PhD


Based on an interview with a public high school counselor in San Francisco Bay Area, Chinese immigrant students are often seen and viewed as “quiet,” “focused on study,” and “hard working” students (personal communication, April 9th, 2012). As the second largest immigrant population in the United States, Chinese immigrants constitute a group that may struggle with mental health problems due to issues with acculturation, language barriers, and socialization in their new environment. This research hypothesized the eight-week art therapy group intervention would contribute to the understanding of acculturation process of Chinese immigrant adolescent girls by the qualitative data analysis using Gestalt art therapy theory on artworks and interviews from the group members. This research also hypothesized there would be an increase in self-esteem as reported by the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale after the group. The major findings include the culture of “face” involved with the development of acculturation for this population. Participants identified the most difficult acculturation issue was the language barrier and difficulty with communication. Using art therapy with the group in this study also revealed a major culture difference regarding use of art materials. Although self-esteem was not being investigated as a relevant issue regarding to the quietness of this population, the art therapy activities provided insight into the student’s perspectives towards psychotherapy/counseling/art therapy as well as how to best offer mental health interventions to this population.