Art Therapy


Shuqun Secondary School, Singapore

August 2013 - April 2014

Institute of Mental Health, Singapore

Jan 2013 - April 2013

Dissertation Title

A Qualitative Single-Case Study: The Role of Art Therapy in Facilitating an Authentic Sense of Self for a Male Adolescent Who Expresses Himself in Gender-Variant Ways

Dissertation Abstract

Children and adolescents who display gender-variant traits face a number of challenges, one of it being that they may be struggling with suppressing or expressing their gender identity (Thomas, 2011). The purpose of this study is to determine whether art therapy can facilitate an authentic sense of self for a young male adolescent who expresses himself in gender-variant ways. Winnicott’s concepts of true self and false self were used to enlighten the understanding of this single case-study. The findings are presented through a discussion of art therapy with my client, Siva, a 14-year-old male adolescent studying in a mainstream secondary school. For the purpose of confidentiality, I have used a pseudonym to address my client. Art therapy was offered in my capacity as a final year art therapy trainee.

By examining the process of art therapy through several identified phases, the research concludes that art therapy is able to facilitate an authentic sense of self for a male adolescent whose interests and behaviours lie outside of typical cultural norms for his gender. When Siva’s narratives were being acknowledged and heard with non-judgmental acceptance, it allowed him to externalise some difficult feelings and for a sense of feeling real to emerge. The safe holding environment in art therapy also facilitated the opportunity for his authentic self to be expressed and validated. By experiencing the freedom for creative expressions in a safe, containing space, he was able to use art to give form to his identity. Recommended techniques and strategies on how to work effectively with this client population have also been suggested.