Thesis Title

A Study of Recurrent Symbols and Visual Construct Choices in the Art of Adolescent Substance Abusers

Graduation Date

Spring 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 study compared the symbolic and visual construct choices in the art of adolescent substance abusers to explore earlier recognition of a chemically dependent teenager and, hence, earlier treatment. Two pre-existing tests were used: the Diagnostic Drawing Series (DDS) and the Arrington Visual Preference Test (AVPT), both designed to identify recurrent symbolic choices in specific participant populations. Thirty-three adolescents were assessed showing a high occurrence of isolation themes in their drawings, symbols of disfigured bodies, and water. In addition, they showed a high preference for feminine constructs in their AVPT choices. A complete discussion of the themes and symbols that arise in the art work and the visual construct choices are presented with examples. Examples of application of the two tests are also discussed, and directions for further investigations are indicated.