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Heather Phillips

Re-thinking Adolescent Girls’ Anger:
An Art-Based Approach to Facilitating Constructive Anger Expression

Heather Phillips, “Untitled”.  2003.  Paper and thread.  6.5” x 8”.

        How do adolescent girls express their experience of anger, both in words and images? How do culture-specific socialization rules interact with the cross-cultural physiological experience of anger? Through knowing this information, how can we, as art therapists, work better with adolescent girls on the topic of anger?

            These questions form the core of this thesis, which utilizes structured interviews and art making to examine the relationships between gender socialization and anger expression in adolescent girls. The participants in this study are patients in a short-term inpatient psychiatric unit, and were invited to participate because they have demonstrated a tendency to either internalize, or externalize their anger. The specific metaphors, images, and words that they utilize to convey their subjective experience of anger were documented; as were the ways that they relate to their gender self-image. Through learning about adolescent girls’ anger-related art products and processes suggestions will be made on facilitating the constructive use and expression of anger with this population.

            Although the effective management of anger is a common clinical goal in art therapy, there are few articles specifically devoted to art therapy and anger. We have very little published knowledge on how to use visual art and metaphor in anger management. In a review of the current literature no articles were found that focus on the particular challenges and idiosyncrasies of working with adolescent girls on managing anger. One of the aims of this thesis is to add to the literature for this important, yet overlooked, aspect of art therapy practice.


         Heather Phillips earned her BA from Oberlin College in 2002, with a major in psychology and a minor in studio art. While pursuing her Master’s degree in art therapy, she gained clinical experience in a short-term, in-patient psychiatric unit for adolescents and children. She also worked in a shelter for women experiencing homelessness.


Thesis Advisor: Randy M. Vick, Associate Professor, Chair, Art Therapy

Thesis Reader: Frances F. Kaplan, Marylhurst University, Marylhurst, OR





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