art therapy, incarceration, trauma, counseling, women, jail


This study examined the effectiveness of art therapy in decreasing symptoms of trauma and psychological distress in women who were incarcerated in county jails in the Southeastern United States. In order to protect the integrity of the study, control subjects were in different dormitories from the treatment subjects. While the dormitories were randomly assigned to treatment or control, the subjects were not. The dependent measures were paper and pencil tests, the Outcome Questionnaire (OQ-45.2) and the Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI) given at pretest and posttest. A demographic questionnaire was completed in the first session to better characterize the participants. In addition, a post study evaluation with open ended questions was completed at the end of the study that allowed participants to share their feelings about the treatment experience. Additional qualitative information was obtained through observation data collected by the investigator who served as the provider of treatment. Art therapy group participants attended six sessions of art therapy over a three week period which was administered using six standard art projects. Like treatment subjects, control participants had access to the treatment available in the jail to all inmates, and were offered art therapy treatment after final data were obtained. Though the statistical data gathered in this study did not provide empirical evidence that the group art therapy treatment was effective in reducing symptomatology, the qualitative responses indicated that the treatment was rated very positively by the participants. No statistically significant changes were found in overall scores, however, some significance was found on some individual treatment scales. Scores measuring psychological distress and trauma symptoms generally decreased over time for all study participants, however, treatment participant scores improved at a greater rate. The study was limited due to small sample size (N=26). Nearly half of the original participants were lost to attrition associated with administrative actions in the county jail system. The measurement instruments used were not specifically adapted to incarcerated individuals and may not have provided adequate measurement for this population. Responses from the participants were overwhelmingly positive. Inmates responses to the post study evaluation indicated that they had enjoyed the experience and would recommend the group to others. More than 75% stated that they felt that the treatment had helped them deal with difficult experiences in their past. The most frequent suggestion for the future was that the groups needed to be continued, and should be longer and more frequent.


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Graduation Date



Young, Mark


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education


Child, Family, and Community Sciences

Degree Program









Release Date

December 2008

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Education Commons