Thesis Title

A School-Based Bereavement Art Therapy Support Group for Grieving Children

Graduation Date

Summer 2002

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


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Doris Arrington, EdD, ATR-BC


Cecilie Rowitz of PediatriCare seeks $4669.68 from Oakland Fund for Children and Youth and Healthy Start for an art therapy bereavement support group for children in the Oakland Public Elementary Schools. The proposed program consists of two support groups that would each be held for ten weekly sessions.

Since 1982, PediatriCare has been serving families in the East Bay who have been impacted by loss, illness, or trauma. PediatriCare provides individual and family counseling as well as support groups. Currently, PediatriCare provides individual counseling in two of the Oakland Public Elementary Schools. However, there remains a great need for grief counseling in the Oakland community.

It is critical for the health and well-being of children that they have the opportunity to work through and express their grief. It has been found that children’s unresolved grief can lead to problems such as substance abuse, poor self-concept, and criminal and hostile behavior. An art therapy bereavement support group for children who have lost a parent or caregiver helps children to process and cope with their loss in a supportive environment. Often, children have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. Art therapy is an effective tool for children to express their feelings and emotions in symbolic and nonverbal ways.

The proposed art therapy bereavement support group will allow twelve children and their families to receive school-based mental health services specifically focusing on grief. The program will provide these children with alternative ways to express their feelings surrounding losses as well as providing a safe and contained space to learn about grief and death.