Thesis Title

Why Women Artists Choose to Become Art Therapists

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 study investigated the reasons why women artists choose to pursue a career in art therapy instead of a career in the professional art world. The subjects were twenty-four art therapists who had either participated in an art exhibition sponsored by the College of Notre Dame, or art therapists known by the author of this paper to have graduated with fine arts degrees. The hypothesis that women artists who make the choice to become art therapists have experienced discrimination in the art world as women artists was not upheld. Although some of the respondents experienced discrimination as women artists, the majority of them did not. Findings indicated the women art therapists involved in this study choose the profession of art therapy because it offers a perfect combination of the respondents main professional interests: art and psychology. However, the hypothesis that these women experienced very little support from their families for their artistic development was upheld. An overwhelming majority of the women involved in this study received very little support from their family of origin for their artistic pursuits. It was also hypothesized that the women in this study had a lack of significant female artist role models to follow and this contributed to their choice to not pursue a professional art career. Contrary to what was hypothesized, the results of the questionnaire show that half of the women involved in this study have significant female artist role models. Lastly, it was hypothesized that the women artist/clinicians involved in this study would report that their art therapy sessions would be sabotaged by their unmet needs as artists. Although eighty-three percent of the respondents said they wished they had more time to make art, only twenty-one percent of them felt that this wish strongly influenced their work with clients.