Thesis Title

Art Therapy for Adolescents with Behavior Disorders

Graduation Date

Summer 1995

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


In the past decade the number of adolescents with behavior disorders has increased. San Mateo County provides special education classes for those student qualifying for special education. The county provides special day classes for severely behaviorally disturbed adolescents. The students have been referred to these classrooms due to disruptive behavior problems which have impeded their educational progress. These students are often diagnosed with behavior disorders.

The group of behavior disorders includes three subclasses: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The most common behaviors displayed include impulsivity, defiance, aggressiveness and inattention. Loeber (1990) states "The prevalence of antisocial and delinquent behavior in juveniles has increased dramatically over the past decades, along with the prevalence of other health-endangering behaviors, such as substance use and suicide. These trends have been accompanied by increased level of psychiatric admissions and special classroom placements in schools." (P.l) Significant difficulties for these individuals arise due to their disruptive behavior. "Children who experience such difficulties are often unable to interact in socially appropriate ways, to cultivate adaptive peer relationships, or to progress successfully in school." (Dodge, 1983 & Patterson, DeBaryshe, Ramsey, 1989, p.34)

This grant proposes to fund three art therapy groups which will meet weekly for thirty-six weeks. The participants in the group will be adolescents (ages 12 - 14) with behavior disorders attending special education classes in San Mateo County school system. The art therapy groups will focus on building more appropriate social skills and increase self-esteem through the use of the art process