Thesis Title

Drawing Mandalas: Its' Psysiological Effects on Children with Severe Emotional Disturbances

Graduation Date

Summer 1998

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form

Print

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to empirically research the long held belief that the process of drawing within a circle (referred to as creating a mandala throughout this thesis), has a calming and relaxing effect on the creator. Prior research on this subject was built upon by the author, to explore and enhance the findings of other theorists and researchers. The subjects tested in this study were twenty-one children, between the ages of six and fourteen, all of whom had been diagnosed with severe emotional disturbances. Results include only seventeen subject’s results, since four subjects were unable to complete the task. Physiological measurements of the autonomic nervous system were used to test levels of relaxation, or arousal. A standard arm cuff monitor was used before and after the intervention to measure heart rate and blood pressure. The experimental group was asked to draw within a circle (mandala), while the control group was asked to draw within a square. The square was used to control for the effects of doing art in general, as compared to the specific process of drawing within a circle (mandala). The general hypothesis was that using the process of creating mandalas as an intervention for children severe emotional disturbances would aid in relaxation, as seen by physiological measurements of hear, rate and blood pressure. The author believed the physiology, readings of hear, rate and blood pressure would be lowered in the experimental group, which would indicate a relaxation response produced by being involved in the process of drawing within a circle (mandala). The control group's physiological measurements would not be changed. The results supported the hypothesis, and were analyzed by looking at general trends. On average, both heart rate and blood pressure decreased in the experimental group, and increased in the control group. The subjects in the experimental group had an average heart rate reduction of 1.9 beats per minutes, while the average heart rate in the control group decreased by 1.8 beats per minute. Systolic blood pressure in the experimental group decreased by an a average of 4.8 mm Hg, and diastolic blood pressure decreased by an average of 1.3 mm Hg. Within the control group systolic blood pressure increased by and average of 5.1 mm Hg, and diastolic blood pressure increased by an average of 4.8 mm Hg. The results of this research suggest that engaging in the process of drawing within a circle, or creating mandalas, has a calming and relaxing effect on children with severe emotional disturbances

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