Thesis Title

Art Therapy: An Alternative Therapeutic Approach in the Treatment of Adolescents at-risk for Depression

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


Seneca Center started in 1985 and provides seriously emotionally disturbed (SED) children and adolescents a continuum of care services to include: The Community Alternatives Program, Crisis Residential and Diagnostic Facility, Sub Acute Residential Treatment Program, Intensive Treatment Foster Care Program, Family Focus Wrap-Around Services Program, Day Treatment/NPS Program, After School Program and Classroom Focus Program.*

The proposed grant is an art therapy program designed as an adjunct to Seneca Center’s Community Alternatives Program, a program that offers short-term and long-term psychiatric hospitalization for SED children and adolescents who need diagnostic and intensive assessment. Both the short-term and long-term program offer a range of culturally competent and well-integrated therapeutic, educational and vocational/rehabilitative services to include group and individual therapy, medication management, art and drama therapy, and creative vocational and rehabilitative opportunities.

Many SED youth exhibit underlying depressive symptomatology. Biological and psychological theories are used to explain the origin of depression. This grant will discuss depression from a psychological theoretical frame work as it relates to the economically disadvantaged child. Youth who live under such conditions are considered “at-risk”.

Research shows the inherent stressors of poverty such as negative life events, ongoing stressors and lack of social resources play a large role in the disturbed psychological and social functioning of the adolescent. Demanding and unyielding environmental pressures make it more difficult for young people to maximize their given potential and can result in maladaptive behaviors. A plethora of published literature suggest a high prevalence rate of depressive symptoms among the at-risk population. Depression among the adolescent population is said to represent “a serious mental health problem and appears to be one of the most prevalent emotional disorders of childhood and adolescence” (Reynolds, 1992, p. 150).

Art Therapy, a non-traditional therapeutic assessment and treatment modality, is effective in helping the adolescent addresses personal issues and work through conflicts (Wadeson, 1980). According to Oster and Gould (1987) art therapy is an avenue “for dealing with frustration and impulses in the process of developing communication skills to enhance a person’s self-worth” (p. XIII). The art process Is not only an avenue for working through painful events, but is also a catalyst for building self-esteem as well as an outlet for creative self-expression.