Thesis Title

Art Therapy Can be Used to Detect Triggers That Cause Violent Behavior

Graduation Date

Spring 2000

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

Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC


In every way imagined violence is a part of our society and children are reflecting it more each day. We tend not to know all of why and how it develops in children but it is a much deeper problem than we as a society care to admit. Children are committing homicides, rapes, and many other felonies at an alarming rate. Though the crime rate in our society has been steadily decreasing, not so in children. Crimes that children, in their normal development, should have the slightest inspiration of how to commit or aspirations to commit, are committing such acts, and it is growing in numbers. The mam focus to this research is of violence in children and can there be a way of predetermining the triggers or catalysts to possible violence. This research will show by using Art Therapy along with self-reporting, violence can be foreseen and alternate responses prepared to cause preventive measures.

The hypothesis is. Art Therapy can be used to detect the triggers that cause violent behavior. With Art Therapy a therapist can predict a cause of violent behavior, work toward assessing motivations and treatment, redirecting emotions away from that which may be the trigger the behavior.

The population that are being studied for this research are adolescents that have been removed from the general population due to anti-social behavior and conduct disorder. They are residing in residential facilities that have been set up to house them away from the general populace. The Methodology for research is to create a safe space in which subjects can complete directives of doing art with some required self-reporting, the focus being on art therapy to redirect motivations leading to that which may trigger violence. The results are that art does correlate with emotions and deep effects leading to that which may cause violent behavior. Art produces a picture, an illustration, when words are inadequate to depict an incident, an emotion, a thought, a motivation to violence. Verbally it may have been possible to be cognizant of problems, through art therapy it would be possible to see further to emotional intent. Through art therapy it is possible to detect the triggers to violent behavior.