Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Art therapy for children, Post-traumatic stress disorder in children-Treatment, Trauma, Childhood trauma, Post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, Art therapy


This study was undertaken to develop and pilot a methodology for looking at theoretical underpinnings and techniques employed by art therapists, with the goal of adding to our knowledge about the use of art therapy to treat children and adolescents with trauma histories and PTSD. Methods: Five practicing art therapists with advanced degrees and certification in art therapy who have been practicing with the target population for more than two years were interviewed about their theoretical orientations, diagnostic strategies, and clinical practices, including their understanding of the relationships, if any, between the presenting symptoms of their trauma-exposed clients and their artistic actions, chosen mediums, and colors. The study also asked about common themes depicted in the children's artwork. Findings: Study participants had various theoretical backgrounds that were mostly influenced by mentors. Most participants were not determining client's diagnosis but were using clinical observation to contribute to the evaluation of clients. All clients thought that there was a relationship between their client's symptomatology and their artistic actions, and some participants found choice of color and medium to be relevant as well. Participants listed several similar themes they have observed in the artwork created by this population. Conclusions: Clinical social workers who work with trauma-exposed youth have a great deal to learn from the work of parallel specialists who are exploring practical applications of our emerging understanding of the neurobiology of emotions.




iv, 71 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 57-59)