Thesis Title

The Old Masters Art Collage With Couples: Increasing Intimacy Through a Six-Session Art Intervention With Couples

Graduation Date

Spring 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

Carolee Stabno, PsyD, MFT


Intimate relationships play an important role in peoples’ lives and are associated in the research with positive outcomes such as better emotional and physical health, higher self-esteem, and reduced stress. Unfortunately, American life is permeated with divorce, separation, and relational distress. Maintaining a satisfying intimate relationship is hard work and many people seem to lack necessary skills to succeed. Research has attempted to glean what the factors are that contribute to a happy, successful intimate partnership. Intimacy is a main focus, being identified by many people as high in importance to their marital satisfaction, and several components of intimacy have been identified.

This research looked at three aspects of intimacy: 1. Self-discovery/self-knowledge, 2. Self-disclosure/communication, and 3. Differentiation through recognition and acceptance of differences between one’s partner and oneself. The research hypothesis stated that participants would experience an increase in intimacy measured by increases in the three aspects after participating in a six-session art intervention called the Old Masters Art Collage. The research was conducted at Family Service Agency of the Central Coast in Santa Cruz, CA. Four couples took part and ranged in age from 21 to 54. The research design was qualitative and heuristic and the data collection was extensive. Data collection methods included; observation, audiotaping, art product, transcriptions of audiotaped material, and researcher’s heuristic data.

The results supported the hypothesis that couples would experience an increase in intimacy measured by reported increases in the 3 aspects of intimacy listed above. The intervention encouraged a healthy focus on the self, and allowed for self-discovery, self-disclosure, and differentiation. It also allowed the couples to learn and practice effective communication.