Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts

First Advisor

Dr Michael Campanelli


This qualitative study uses an existing body of data derived from weekly art therapy groups conducted as part of a treatment programme at a medical detoxification facility. The design for this study relies on phenomenological and heuristic model of research. Previous art therapy researchers have suggested the recurrence of themes in the art work of particular client groups. This study examines themes previously observed in the art of substance abusers which are also present in the current data as well as additional themes that emerged in this study. These additional themes include the sun, the island paradise, the journey, cross roads and split-self images. These themes are examined in the light of a number of therapeutic models for change and in terms of the myth of the hero journey. An outline is proposed for a series of groups based on the hero’s journey to be used with substance misusers in recovery. Identifying the characteristics of the work produced by substance abusers in the early stages of their recoveries can be valuable aid for those who work with such clients in art therapy or substance use counselling. The images produced may give some indication of the client’s progress and in turn an indication of how effective the intervention strategies have been.