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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/2992

Title: Exploring the Relationship Between Defense Mechanisms and Drawing Characteristics: A Pilot Study
Authors: Engelhardt, Frederick John
Keywords: Defense Mechanisms;Drawing;Art Therapy
Issue Date: 26-Mar-2009
Abstract: Defense mechanisms are unconscious mental processes that protect an individual from experiencing anxiety resulting from the perceived threat of internal or external stress. Defense mechanisms are important to clinical practice in understanding personality dynamics, identifying preferred modes of coping, tailoring treatment planning, and refining diagnostic impressions. Defense mechanisms within the context of the current managed care culture are not generally assessed. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between an individual’s use of defense mechanisms and the characteristics of his/her drawing in order to inform art therapy assessment. Seven participants were recruited to participate in the study. Each participant drew a Person Picking an Apple from a Tree (PPAT) drawing and completed the Defense Style Questionnaire – 40 (DSQ – 40). The Formal Elements Art Therapy Scale (FEATS) was used to measure the graphic variables of the PPAT drawings. The scores from the DSQ-40 and the FEATS were correlated. The results demonstrated that the defense of Humor correlated positively with the FEATS variables of Logic, Integration, Perseveration, Rotation, Problem Solving, Line Quality, and Developmental Level. The defense of Rationalization correlated positively with the FEATS variable of Perseveration The defense of Pseudo-altruism exhibited a positive correlation with the FEATS variables of Integration, Space, Problem Solving, Realism, and Developmental Level. Negative correlations between DSQ – 40 scores and FEATS scores were also studied. The defense of Displacement displayed a negative correlation with the FEATS variables of Logic, Color Fit, Rotation, Person, and Line Quality while the defense of Devaluation exhibited a negative correlation with the FEATS variables of Perseveration, Rotation, and Line Quality. Additionally, participants scoring High on the overall Mature defense factor drew figures picking an apple from a tree differently than participants who did not score high on the Mature defense factor. The study was not able to draw strong correlations between individual defense mechanisms and FEATS categories in a way that would allow art therapists the ability to equate certain styles of drawing with a specific defense. This study did however suggest a difference in the drawings of individuals who utilize more mature defensive processes and is able to provide clinicians with data that may be useful in evaluating an individual’s awareness of support and ability to cope and problem solve. Future study may continue to focus on qualitative differences in the artwork of individuals utilizing more mature defensive processes versus those who utilize more immature defensive processes.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/2992
Appears in Collections:Health Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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