Exploring the Coming Out Experience Through Animal Self-portraiture

Graduation Date

Spring 2015

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

Deann Acton, LMFT, ATR-BC


The intent of this study is to explore the use of the animal self-portrait with individuals navigating the coming out process. For lesbian, gay. bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals, coming out may not only be a significant event, but a life long process affecting many aspects of their lives. The student researcher met LGBQ individuals (N = 16) and asked them to create two animal self-portraits. One portrait of themselves before a significant coming out event and one portrait of themselves after that same event. The use of thematic analysis, the Formal Elements of Art Therapy Scale. The Outness Inventory, and self-report data provided an idea of how this directive may be used. Differences between the drawings were present, however t-test analysis of FEATS subscalcs proved statistically insignificant. All but two of the participants changed their animals from the before and after drawings and very few animals were repeated between participants. Experiences and topics discussed by participants were consistent with previous literature and research regarding the coming out experience. Given the variety of responses, uniqueness of animal choice, and responses to the art making experience, the student researcher believe that the animal self-portrait has the potential to be successfully utilized in a therapeutic setting.

Only available in print

Scan Your Thesis