Thesis Title

Color as a Bridge from Mental Illness

Graduation Date

Spring 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 reports the results of a survey that was conducted to explore if the subconscious could be assessed by examining color choice. Could color choice be a means of coping with and bridging the experience of psychosis? The state of mental illness and the role that family plays in psychosis is also discussed.

Color is an important life force (Kellogg, 1978). The use and meaning of color is significant and symbolic; color is the most cross-cultural and universal of all types of symbolism, and it is consciously applied in the areas of religion, heraldry, alchemy, the arts, and literature (Rinehart & Englehorn, 1984).

Specific colors have specific meanings. For example, in western society the color orange is used to promote energy and movement. It is used to designates danger by indicating hazards on roads, and fast food restaurants such as Denny's and Burger King use the color orange significantly in their color schemes, perhaps to motivate customers. In California, the color orange is used in uniforms for felons.

This study explores whether clients on a locked crisis unit at a community hospital in the Bay Area would select orange more frequently than other colors when asked to indicate their preferred color. Subjects were asked to compete two questionnaires. On the first, they were asked to circle the word for the color they preferred (red, yellow, orange, green, blue, or violet); on the second they were asked to circle the color itself on an illustration that included the six colors patches.