Thesis Title

Substance Abusers and Differentiation: Viewing the Self within the Family System

Graduation Date

Spring 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


This paper addresses the concept of differentiation of self of the substance abuser within the framework of family systems theory. Assessment needs for the substance abuser are discussed. Previous therapeutic work involving art therapy with a substance abuser is noted and a rationale for the need for assessment using art therapy is presented. The study discusses the lack of indicators of self-differentiation with both substance abusers and non-substance abusers in Kinetic Family Drawings and the maternal version of the Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaires. Two groups were used for this study. The first group was composed of 19 male and 19 female adult substance abusers in residential treatment, between the ages of 22 and 65 from various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. The second group, non-substance abusers, was composed of 18 male and 18 female adults possessing similar demographics. The results of the maternal PARQ revealed that the male non-substance abusers had higher subscores in aggression/hostility, neglect indifference, and rejection than the substance abusers and the female non-substance abuser subscores. Substance abusers, both male and female, scored lower on the six KFD variables. This study encourages a way in which to view the substance abuser’s family system and the behavior patterns of its members.