Thesis Title

Art Therapy in a Business Community: A Creative Outlet for Enhancing the Work Experience Through Communication Skills Training and Stress Reduction

Graduation Date

Winter 1999

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


Elaine L. Cohen, EdD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Franklin Burroughs, PhD


The business community is experiencing change at a global level and a more accelerated rate than ever before. Likewise, the increasingly diverse American workforce is undergoing their own changes as this aging, dual-earner, single parent, or single individual, population is attempting to balance work and nonwork roles. These changes in addition to a lack of communication skills and the absence of an outlet for verbal and creative expression are generating and intensifying the working individual’s level of stress.

The heightened stress level affects both the organization and the employee. The employee may become burned out, unmotivated, dissatisfied or physically ill from stress. Organizational effectiveness may decrease due to unmotivated or dissatisfied employees who may be less productive as a result. The organization may also be paying more in health care costs and worker’s compensation costs due to illness created from the employee’s stress. Finding a balance to create a healthy work environment is now being recognized as a necessary entity in organizational effectiveness. Finding balance for the employee is essential to maintaining work and life satisfaction.

Art therapy techniques along with communication skills training can foster creativity and teach skills necessary for survival in such a dynamic environment. Art therapy, communication skills training and cognitive therapy can also facilitate stress reduction by promoting self- awareness and by allowing workers the understanding of how they are affected and likewise affect their environment through communication.

The research project was conducted at a large multi-national, financial services company. An experimental group of 17 subjects along with a control group of 14 subjects participated in the research. Each subject took a pretest and a post-test that gathered information on their communication skills, stress management skills and self-awareness. The experimental group underwent an eight-week program that implemented art therapy and cognitive therapy techniques along with communication skills training and stress management training.

This project was successful. The participants felt as if they had a place or an outlet in which to express themselves using a method which they had never previously utilized - art. They reported an increase in communication skills and improved coping with their stress. Self- awareness was manifested through the self-report of insight and growth. The value of the art process was made evident through an expressed need for continued experiences of the same nature. Overall, the program was deemed a valuable addition to their workweek, and the employees voiced a need for more of the same. Thus, the results of this study support the application of the process of art therapy along with communication and stress management interventions in the business community.