Thesis Title

An Art Therapy Program for Artists with Disabilities

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

Amy Backos, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Jonathan Oringher, PhD


The intent of this thesis grant proposal is to secure funding for an art therapy program for Creative Growth Alt Center’s clients who are adult artists with developmental, intellectual, and physical disabilities. The proposed art therapy support groups will serve as an adjunct to Creative Growth’s existing creative arts facilitation program, held five days a week in a large, multi- media studio with adjoining gallery, and serving 140 clients, in Oakland, CA. The goal is the integration of art therapy services, as a means of providing additional attention to the emotional wellbeing of Creative Growth clients. Individuals with disabilities face unique, and disproportionately frequent challenges in our society. Art therapy group sessions will provide adult artists with disabilities the opportunity to creatively express thoughts and emotions through art experientials and discussion within a safe and supportive space. The emotions and thoughts that arise in the groups will be addressed using the therapeutic, creative process of art making through specific art directives, and a person-centered theoretical approach. This paper presents the issues of civil rights, independence, social interaction, social victimization, as well as self- efficacy and autonomy for persons with disabilities. This paper also explores the inherent benefits of creative art for persons with disabilities, as well as the benefits of a person-centered theoretical approach among the support staff of persons with disabilities.