Thesis Title

Mirroring Through Art to Repair the Damaged Self

Graduation Date

Summer 1994

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 discusses an art therapy research study conducted to demonstrate that mirroring with art can foster therapeutic change in children with a deficient sense of self-worth. The theoretical basis for the research is Kohut's Self Psychology and the Object Relations theory that early wounds to the Self, inflicted through inadequate nurturing, can be repaired by "Mirroring," wherein the therapist offers reflection, confirmation, and approval. A "single-subject" multiple baseline design was used in which five children were observed and measured on multiple occasions during approximately sixteen sessions for each. The purpose was to document changes in self-image, revealed mainly in subjects' self-disclosures, as the researcher moved from a neutral role to that of active participant in the therapy process, mirroring the subjects' art and behavior with her own. The independent variable was the researcher's use of mirroring interventions. There were three mirroring stages. In Stage A mirroring was minimal. In Stage B, there were more verbal and behavioral interventions. In Stage C, engaging in artistic activities with the subject was added to the other mirroring interventions. The self-disclosing statements were the dependent variable. The raw data were analyzed to determine the percentage of all self-disclosures that showed a positive self-image - PSID - and what percentage were negative self-image disclosures - NSID. The charted group average results revealed an increase in the PSID's from 10% at the beginning of the study to 48% at the end and a decrease in NSID's from 35% to 7%. The remaining self-disclosures had no self-image content. For all but one, individual subjects' graphs revealed an upward trend in the percentage of PSID's and a downward trend in NSID's as mirroring interventions increased. The Literature Review showed that most art therapy research in mirroring has been qualitative. This study added some quantitative support to existing qualitative research done by art therapists including Kramer, Robbins Wadeson, and Lachman-Chapin on the reparative value of mirroring. It demonstrated the potential success of short-term mirroring to initiate a process of repairing the damaged self, an important goal not only because emotional wounds need to be healed quickly but also because of the growing financial need for brief psychotherapy.