Working the First Three Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in Art Therapy Groups with Female Substance Abusers

Graduation Date

Spring 2005

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Ellen Spiegel, MFT, ATR-BC


This paper discusses preliminary research on substance abuse and treatment methods, including the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Art Therapy. It is hypothesized that pre-structured art therapy can aid in the internalization of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholism Anonymous (AA) and the progress towards spiritual awakening. This paper reports the results of a four-week study with fourteen female subjects who were residents at a substance abuse treatment center in Redwood City, California. The participants attended one and a half hour group sessions twice a week for four weeks, in which they completed pre-structured art directives related to the first three steps of AA’s 12-Step program. The researcher collected data through use of questionnaires, personal interviews, analysis of art content, and process notes, to assess the efficacy of the pre- structured art therapy in promoting the subjects’ understanding and internalization of the key concepts of the 12-step program, and thus strengthening the recovery process through a process of spiritual awakening. The results supported the hypothesis of the study and suggested a high value of the pre-structured art therapy in assisting the subjects to further their understanding and internalization of the first three steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program.

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