Thesis Title

The Role of Precombat Personality in the Development of Postcombat Stress Disorder: A Case Study Using Art Therapy

Graduation Date

Fall 1991

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 paper examines the role precombat factors play in the development of chronic post-traumatic stress disorders in Vietnam veterans. The goal of the study is twofold: first, to gain an understanding of the complexity of variables affecting the long-term adjustment to combat traumatization, and second, to determine if the art process could benefit a veteran whose post-Vietnam adjustment problems appeared related to prewar experiences. Theoretical conceptualizations of traumatic stress response are reviewed from an historical standpoint. Included are theories of the role preexisting character plays in the development of chronic combat-related stress syndromes. The clinical symptomatology of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the role of trauma in the etiology of stress disorders is discussed. In addition, the case study of a 43 year old Vietnam veteran who participated in group and individually directed art therapy sessions at a Veterans Administration Specialized Treatment Unit for PTSD is presented.