THESIS ABSTRACT 2004
Anger and ARt
Beginning my work as an intern at a residential facility for emotionally and behaviorally troubled adolescents, I was immediately struck by how quickly conflicts flared up in my art therapy groups and how much anger seemed to be stirring inside of these young people. I was also struck by my strong reaction to the adolescents destructive expressions of anger towards other group members and towards myself —their quick tempers and levels of frustration left me feeling helpless and anxious as I questioned my ability as group leader. These initial impressions led me to explore the complicated emotion of anger and how it manifests in early adolescents who have suffered emotional and physical abuse as children. This thesis investigated three connected questions. Can art-making help adolescents identify and express angry feelings positively and avoid behaving aggressively towards themselves and others? Can art-making help give form to volatile emotions and help solve conflicts that arise in group? What part does my reaction to explosive behavior reveal about my own pattern of dealing with conflict, and how do these responses affect the therapeutic alliance in working with emotionally and behaviorally disordered youth? By examining my own family and culture, along with that of my clients, I seek to better understand the messages people receive from family and society regarding anger and conflict. Through personal reflection of my interactions with clients, in journal writing and art making, I explored these questions.
Kate Roskelly earned her BA in philosophy from the University of North Carolina where she was ruled by logic and learned to be rigorously critical. Depressed by her developing solipsism, she decided to pursue graduate training where she learned to trust her intuition in making art and working with people. At SAIC, Kate gained experience in an open studio setting making art with people with chronic mental illness, and clinical art therapy training working with troubled adolescents in a residential facility.
Thesis Advisor: Terri Sweig, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Art Therapy
Thesis Reader: Heather Vance