Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Marianne Woodside

Committee Members

Jeannine Studer, Joel F. Diambra, Jacob J. Levy


Due to the paucity of formal research in the use of art therapy with adolescent populations, the purported effectiveness of art as an assessment instrument in screening for emotional disturbance, and the widespread application of art and other expressive modalities with children, the purpose of this single subject qualitative case study was to describe the experience of an adolescent, diagnosed with a mood disorder, either singly or in combination with other psychiatric disorders, and enrolled full-time in a residential treatment center, while participating in weekly person-centered art therapy sessions. The participant for this study was a 16-year old adolescent female, diagnosed with mild mental retardation and bi-polar disorder. Qualitative data, obtained from typed transcripts of 11 audio-recorded, weekly art therapy sessions, pre- and post-intervention interviews with treatment center staff, and pre- and post-intervention observational data, were analyzed using the constant comparative method. Following data analysis, I integrated and interpreted the findings through the theoretical framework of David Elkind‟s (1978, 1984, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2001) theory of adolescent cognitive development. My findings indicated that, to a degree, the participant‟s experience paralleled expectations based upon Elkind‟s proposed characteristics of adolescent development. The participant was described as receptive to the art therapy intervention, but resistant during times in which verbal communication was employed over the nonverbal, expressive channels of art therapy. Overall, findings from this study provided support for existing literature in the use of art therapy with adolescents. The discussion included implications for counseling and plans for future research in expressive therapy.

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