Thesis Title

A National Survey of Art Therapists Regarding: How Art Affects the Development of Trust in the Therapeutic Relationship

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

Gwen Sanders, MFT, ART-BC


A review of current literature in psychology reveals that healing and change take place within a therapeutic relationship built upon trust. It has been speculated that in Art Therapy a third variable, the art itself, is brought into this relationship and may complicate or hinder the development of trust and therefore healing (Rait, 2000). This research begins to address the issue of whether or not art is a third variable in therapy by examining how art affects the development of trust between clients and their therapists

Through the use of an internet survey it was possible to elicit responses from registered Art Therapists across the United States of America with varied backgrounds and therapeutic experiences. There was a strong congruence between the literature and the survey responses regarding the importance of trust in the therapeutic relationship. A majority of the participants also agreed that art was beneficial to the development of trust within this healing relationship. In addition to these findings, specific art directives and practical suggestions for promoting client trust are also addressed in this paper.