Thesis Title

An Exploration of the Use of Mirroring as a Therapeutic Technique for the Art Therapist

Graduation Date

Spring 1986

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 was undertaken to look at the concept of mirroring, as applied to psychoanalytic literature, to see whether it might have any applicability for the field of art therapy. It's purpose was to increase art therapist's understanding and validation of the therapeutic uses of mirroring within the art therapy session. Counterindications regarding the use of mirroring were also examined.

Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with three practicing art therapists who had written about the technique of mirroring. The study sought to ascertain their differential use of mirroring in the art therapy situation and their understanding of how it can be an effective adjunct to the treatment process. In addition, the author discusses her experiences with the mirroring technique employed during internship.

The findings of this study seem to be validated by the literature on the subject. Mirroring was seen as a tool which could be employed effectively within the art therapy session to facilitate the goals of treatment. Mirroring, or empathic responsiveness of the self object, is seen as an effective therapeutic technique with clients who have experienced pre- oedipal injuries to their sense of self, or with clients who have little sense of self, such as schizophrenics and little children. Mirroring also enhances the joining process and is effective until transmuting internalizations occur. At that time confrontation and insight become the primary treatment strategies. Mirroring is contra-indicated as a sole therapeutic technique, but was seen as a part of a therapist's armamentarium of techniques. All the therapist's interviewed used their own art as a mirroring tool, and felt that mirroring was an effective technique with certain populations and problems.

An attempt was made to limit and specify the term "mirroring" in this paper, and the conclusion of the researcher was that "mirroring" could be more aptly applied to the third phase of the creative, transitional therapeutic space that Winnicott postulates.