Thesis Title

Art Therapy as Crisis Intervention and Psycotherapy with a Four Year Old Girl in a Bereaved and Distressed Family

Graduation Date

Spring 1984

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 is a report about the art therapy process and the therapeutic relationship between a four year old girl and the art therapist. The child brought for art therapy was diagnosed and labeled as grieving for her recently deceased baby brother• She was described as "noisy and too active" and was not in good relationship with either her mother or her father. It became apparent as the therapy sessions progressed that the child was suffering from loss of both a mother and a family and she needed nurturance. She was fearful and had taken on the role of caretaker of the mother. In the course of therapy, the mother made repeated threats against the child’s life as well as making attempts to kill both the girl and herself. The child was in continuous mortal danger yet remained in the family home under the care of her parents. With art therapy the child’s emotions were given expression. In therapy she was accepted and her behavior validated. Appropriate interventions for her well being and safety were suggested and some instigated. Art therapy, as effective treatment of children who are members of bereaved families, should begin as soon as possible after the trauma of a loss to ensure the preservation and evolution of healthful ways to process the necessary changes in their lives. Real and anticipated needs of the child must be addressed and served. Since the art therapy process with children is principally non-verbal, an exhaustive selection of visual data is presented herein along with the written material from the art therapy session.