Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art Therapy



First Advisor

Andrew Chirchirillo

Second Advisor

Evadne McNeil


In my work, in a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed children, I have observed that many, if not a majority, of the residents experience difficulty in learning . Emotionally disturbed children exhibit inappropriate emotional reactions which hinder their ability to make appropriate responses to their environment. Uhlin (1979), described their predicament as being unable to structure and maintain their experiences of reality. As a result, such children function in a distorted manner (Uhlin, 1979). Emotional disturbances can range from children who seemingly become detached from reality; for example, the autistic children to the less observable or detectable disturbances related to unsuccessful resolution of developmental tasks of childhood.

The art therapist needs to understand where the child is functioning emotionally and cognitively from a developmental perspective. Observation of behavior, art work, social interaction skills, and procurement of social and family histories, provides the art therapist with information as to the child's level of development. The assessment of how the child functions developmentally provides the art therapist necessary information to provide appropriate art experiences and interventions.

The premise of my culminating project is that emotionally disturbed children, due to failure to accomplish their developmental tasks, have not been able to develop the necessary skills for effective learning . The hypothesis of this paper is -- when an emotionally disturbed child ls provided art therapy experiences emphasizing developmental growth, the child' s ability to learn will then increase .