Thesis Title

Using Art to Process Aggression With Children Who Are Severly Emotionally Disturbed

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


The art intervention used in this research combines Fritz Redl’s life space interview and social information processing theory with art therapy to develop an art intervention to be used with aggressive severely emotionally disturbed children in residential treatment after they have had an aggressive incident. The art intervention was used as a means for the children to process the aggressive event and express themselves in a way that will help them reflect on what happened, how they were feeling, what they have done in the past, what they will do the next time, and how they will rejoin the milieu. The research methods used were interviews with the children before and after the intervention and a review of the drawings. The art intervention allowed the children to express how they were feeling and their point of view of what happened during an aggressive event. The use of art made it more fun to talk about serious acting out behavior and gave the child the opportunity to plan what they wanted to say when a staff processed with the child. The art also provided a place for the child to reflect on how they felt before becoming aggressive, how they have dealt with those feelings in the past and what they will do in the future.