Thesis Title

Evolution of the Tree Symbol as a Metaphor for Individualization

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 thesis addresses the tree symbol as it relates to the process of human individuation. The tree symbol is shown to be a metaphor for psychological development from ancient times to the present day. The evolution of this metaphor of the tree is explored. The specific uses of the tree as metaphor examined in this paper include: tree worship, anthropomorphic trees. Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge, Cosmic Tree, Tree of Ascent, the Philosophical Tree of Alchemy, the tree in modern art, tree drawings as psychological assessment and tree pictures in art therapy. An historical survey of tree images in the religion, myth legend and art of varied cultures reveals the archetypal nature of the tree motif. Common links between historical examples and present usages are surveyed, and the continued use of the tree metaphor in psychological assessment and art therapy is shown to be important and grounded in historical precedents.