Thesis Title

The Effects of Artistic Expression on Identity Formation Within a Learning Disabled Adolescent Population

Graduation Date

Spring 1999

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


Elaine L. Cohen, EdD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC


The purpose of this grant proposal is the development of “A Cool Place to Create.” Three eight week sessions comprise this 24-week after school art therapy/psychoeducation program designed specifically for adolescents with learning disabilities. This co-ed program will be conducted through the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, (H. A.R.D.), at the Sorensdale Center in conjunction with Hayward Unified School District. “A Cool Place to Create” will consist of an art studio/classroom setting equipped with a wide variety of art materials, staffed by a professional therapist/art educator. Students will be referred to this program by their high school teachers in the Special Education Department, through parent request or self-request.

Specialized services, including art therapy, have been mandated through the signing of Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1973, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. A structured, multi-sensory art therapy curriculum will meet the needs of and enable participating students to explore self-expression and positive identity development issues through gradual mastery of various art media in a positive, supportive and non-judgmental environment. Art material choice and related tasks will be designed to emphasize independent learning skills

Self-report by the students plus post-assessments by the facilitator will be used to measure progress in the program and to evaluate if the program meets specific goals and objectives. Having the students review their own artwork is a powerful tool for the individual and group to honor their unique learning abilities. Participants will also have the opportunity to practice verbalization and socialization skills relating to their experiences of transition to adulthood. This will be done through discussions of individual artwork, discussions and critiques of art techniques and exploration of applicable art styles through art history.

This program will include both Individual and group projects designed to capture the student’s creative interest at an appropriate high school level. Students within the thirteen to fifteen year age range will meet after school for one and one half hours two days per week on Mondays and Wednesdays. Students within the sixteen to eighteen year age range will also meet after school two days per week on Tuesdays and Thursday