Thesis Title

Insight into Factors Involved in the Developmental Process of Professional Identity Formation of the Art Therapist

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 explored the experiences of nine individuals who were involved in the process of establishing the professional identity of art therapist or had previously done so. The participants in the study lived, studied and/or worked in the San Francisco Bay Area except one, who lived outside of the United States.

Utilizing a qualitative research design, the individual's personal experience of the process of becoming an art therapist was emphasized. In order to extract the most essential experiential information possible, the participants were asked to first create an image and then produce a written description of their experience of becoming an art therapist Following the Kidd experiential method, these descriptions were analyzed in a qualitative manner to insure the retrieval of personal meaning.

The literature reviewed for this study included the examination of factors previously found to be influential upon professional identity formation. These factors were explored as they emerged in the experiential descriptions, however, the predominant experiential themes proved to be those relating to the motivation. It was found that the primary motivation for becoming art therapists , for these individuals, was to instill meaning into their lives. This was evidenced in the fact that the themes emerging in the experiential expressions were those pertaining to core self-development, altruism, the influence of time, and the concept of spirituality.

In light of the information obtained in this study, suggestions were made regarding education and training programs for the art therapist Implications for further study included those regarded necessary for the successful definition and development of the art therapy profession.