Assessigng Mandala Art in an Adolescent Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Features

Graduation Date

Winter 1996

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


This art therapy research paper is a descriptive case study.

This paper reviews the psychological and art therapy literature relevant to adolescents with borderline symptomatology and focuses on “splitting”, resulting in a fragmented ego, as one of the principle mechanisms underlying the borderline personality disorder. It explores the therapeutic process of mandala making and introduces assessing mandala art in an female adolescent diagnosed with borderline personality features. Measures included defining the subject’s self-destructive and assertive behaviors and a scale that rated the degree of fragmentation and cohesion in the artwork of the mandala. The findings revealed that out of the total twenty- two mandalas drawn there were 55% or twelve fragmented mandalas drawn. The subject’s self-destructive incidents in the program occurred six times and correlated with 50% of the total twelve mandalas drawn. There were four or 18% cohesive mandalas out of the total twenty-two mandalas drawn. There were three mandalas out of the four total cohesive mandalas that correlated with the subject’s behavior, self-assertive incidents. Therefore, 75% of the cohesive mandalas or 14% of overall mandalas correlated with three self-assertive incidents reflecting the subject’s behavior. The findings verified that at least two basic features in the artwork of this borderline individual seemed to predominate. The first was fragmentation, thought to reflect the underlying mechanism of splitting and self-destructive behavior. The second was balance and completeness-that is cohesion which may suggest a sense of wholeness of self and assertive behavior.

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