Thesis Title

The Influence of Time and Professioanlization on The Evolution of Art Therapists Identity

Graduation Date

Spring 1993

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 investigated the influences of time and socialization to the profession on art therapist identity. Twelve therapists who use art therapy in practice, and are members of the Northern California Art Therapy Association, were interviewed. Areas explored in the data gathering process included perceived changes in identity during the past year, personal art making, art making m practice, core identity, and thoughts on the relationship between identity and influences of the professional world.

The literature Indicated that art therapists who more closely identify as “therapist” have been in the field for approximately 3 years longer than those art therapists who identify as “artist.” This study revealed that the dual nature of artist-therapist identity appears not to be a polarization of artist and therapist but rather an integration of the two which is shaped by conflicting needs and desires. Eight of the 12 participants in this study described a core identity of artist and role identity as a therapist.

Art therapists seek better clinical skills and greater professional recognition. The acquisition of these, through training and professional experience, appears to be at the expense of the art part of art therapy. It was found that personal art making and art making in practice are affected by time available, self-confidence, crises, life cycles, economics, pressure for licensure, job settings and responsibilities, supervision, and membership in the professional art therapy organizations

A hopeful theme emerged In this study. As art therapists negotiate the realities of the role of therapist In the professional world they continue to have a high awareness of the Importance of nourishing the artist. Over 50% of interviewees indicated that they had done more or the same amount of art making, or used more art in practice, during the past year.