Thesis Title

Art Therapy and Transition with Retirees: A Narrative Appoach with Altered Books

Graduation Date

Spring 2014

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

Jennifer Harrison, PsyD, DAAETS, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Lisa Manthe, MFT, ATR-BC


The life span of an individual includes many transitions, including retirement. While senior centers and volunteer organizations provide activities and opportunities, mental health communities could provide further support around the shifting roles, identities and psychological adjustments inherent in this major life change. Using a short-term art therapy group, research was conducted with (N=4) volunteer participants transitioning to retirement. This study examined the use of a narrative art therapy intervention involving altered books to decrease retirement anxiety. A secondary aim was to explore whether the intervention increased positive attitudes towards retirement. During four sessions, participants created altered book projects with a focus on various themes related to narrative therapy, positive life review and retirement issues. Retirement anxiety was measured using the Social Components of Retirement Anxiety Scale, SCRAS (Fletcher &Hansson, 1991) pre and post intervention. A sentence completion questionnaire was also given pre and post intervention to ascertain any increase in positive attitudes towards retirement. On average, participants SCRAS scores decreased, especially in participants who had already retired. Also slightly more positive statements about retirement (compared to negative/ambiguous statements) were made post intervention. However due to small sample size, findings were not statistically significant. Further research needs to be conducted to further support the benefits of an altered book intervention with retiring adults.