Alternative Title

Are artists a clinically distinct population?

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Artists-Mental health services, Artists-Psychology, Use of specialization, Why specialize, Accreditation standards, History of social work accreditation, Critical thinking, Critical thinking as core competency, CSWE guidelines, Artists, Working with artists, Special populations, Clincial populations, Clinical perceptions of artists, Clinical attributes of artists, Use of self, Art and Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis and art, Psychodynamic work with artists, Exploratory therapy with artists, Art and the unconscious, Self-identified artist, Artist client, Artist-client, Artists seeking social work services, Social work with artists, Art and social work, Are artists special, Artists as clinically distinct, Art and therapy


This research study explored how clinical social workers perceive their practice with clients who self-identify as artists. The study was based on qualitative interviews with 13 participants who described their clinical experiences with people who self-identify as artists and discussed whether they believe that this type of client is clinically distinct. Using grounded theory (Engel & Schutt, 2013), the study analyzed responses, clinical examples, nature of interventions, and personal reflections that each participant shared about her or his practice. Case vignettes provided real-world examples of the great satisfaction participants feel about their work with so-called artist-clients as well as concrete and conceptual challenges they face in practice with this population.

While the study investigated the practice implications of working with the artist-client and explored how the self-identity of this so-called type seems to have unique clinical attributes, participants did have some difficulty categorizing all self-identified artists as a special population. Still, almost all stated that they feel that some specific practice implications do exist for working with this type of client. Despite the fact that this was a small exploratory study, the research offers the field a nuanced description of the characteristics of this type of client (the artist-client) and offers clinical examples to illustrate the nature of interventions clinical social workers use in practice.




ii, 77 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 64-67)

Included in

Social Work Commons