Thesis Title

Self-Portrait Drawings by Adolescents Diagnosed With Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorders

Graduation Date

Fall 2003

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

Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC


The art intervention used in this research is based on an object relations theoretical perspective using the concepts of art-making for the purpose of greater self understanding. Using art as a transitional object and a container for clients to project their defenses against anxiety and consequent delayed stages of development is a therapeutic tool for both the client’s insight into self, the therapist’s insight into the client, and for the client-therapist relationship. Each teenager that was chosen for this study was diagnosed with having traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder. The subjects were asked to draw a self-portrait with given materials and then were asked to have a dialogue with the image. Expression of self has always been recognized as an unconscious factor in art making according to such early theorists as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Asking clients to consciously express themselves through art in a self-portrait the client creates an image where they have more control over what they share with the viewer. Using art as a way to express and discover hidden aspects of the self can be pleasurable and less intimidating. Overall the subjects in this study enjoyed the art process and product, wanting to take it with them to show others how they viewed themselves. Although they were able to express themselves through the art they had a difficult time verbally describing the ‘self.