Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Spiritual Care and Counselling


Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Dr. Kristine Lund

Advisor Role



This phenomenological, arts-based study examined the experiences of 15 art therapists using five-minute, full-bodied self-portraiture with 55 minutes of self-reflective journaling once a week for four weeks at the end of each work week. The therapists determined the location for this practice. Subsequently, the four artworks, as a serial, were explored with each participant in a one-hour telephone or Skype interview to understand their lived experience through art, and its signs, and symbols. This process enabled the therapists to act as witness to their respective self/selves, deepening their insights and connections about self. The transcribed audio-taped interviews were manually coded to surface descriptive and interpretive elements, and empathic immersion facilitated some understanding of the participant’s actual lived experience to identify themes. Eight themes about the self surfaced, including self-awareness through: symbolism of environment; emotional, spiritual and bodily awareness; construction of self through word in art; engagement with inner-child; transformation; awareness of professional self; self-care; and awareness of hope and appreciation. The results, confirmed with each participant, found that their self-portraits, using simple materials such as photocopy paper and markers, resulted in images which visually captured the artist’s actual experience, in ways that words could not. The subsequent reflections concerning the images resulted in rich descriptions that facilitated their respective self-assessments, and in turn, their future directionality. The results also affirmed the importance of self-care for the art therapist through the creation of art, as a means for maintaining their inner artistic drive and desire, and balance and well-being.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season