Grief Therapy Using Artistic Expression

Group interventions that facilitate artistic expression could be a robust practice framework for grief therapy. Interventions of such kind help in the reduction of feelings of isolation, and clients become more willing to accept and normalize loss experience (St Thomas & Johnson, 2007). Art is an addition that helps to accomplish these goals in a culturally and socially sensitive way (St Thomas & Johnson, 2007). However, it is essential to understand that interpretation cannot be culture-free, and symbols used by patients should be viewed from the perspective of individual culture.

Moreover, the symbols within one culture often clash with others. It can be seen from the east and west representations of the dragon. In western culture, the creature symbolizes fear and terror, while in eastern culture, it is associated with divine power, prosperity, and fortune (St Thomas & Johnson, 2007). Therefore, art therapy used in group sessions should emphasize experience, personal meanings, and process (St Thomas & Johnson, 2007). In a particular case study by Miles-Mason (2005), psychodynamically-oriented art therapy was utilized to establish a healthy grieving process for a young African American girl. She wrote powerful poetry filled with symbolic language that helped her work through the lasting feelings of sorrow and loss (Miles-Mason, 2005). Perhaps, a similar approach could be used for therapeutic work with disenfranchised grief.

The view on the non-linearity and erratic nature of grief reactions is reasonably recent. Disenfranchised grief recognizes the existence of grieving, which may not fit or be acceptable within the larger social environment of the individual (Green & Grant, 2008). Consequently, it is argued that this type of grieving often does not elicit the same support from close relatives as the socially approved constructs (Green & Grant, 2008). Dr. Kenneth Doka, a specialist on death and bereavement, identifies four forms of grief that are disenfranchised such as the relationships that are not traditionally acknowledged; socially non-recognized loss; when a grieving individual is not recognized; disenfranchised death, which emerges when the cause of death might lead to negative repercussions on the close relatives (Green & Grant, 2008).


Green, L., & Grant, V. (2008). Gagged grief and beleaguered bereavements? An analysis of multidisciplinary theory and research relating to same sex partnership bereavement. Sexualities, 11(3), 275-300. Web.

Miles-Mason, E. S. (2005). A case study illustration of grief therapy using culturally-sensitive, integrative techniques. Grad Stud J Psychol, 7, 37-45.

St Thomas, B., & Johnson, P. (2007). Empowering children through art and expression: Culturally sensitive ways of healing trauma and grief. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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PsychologyWriting. "Grief Therapy Using Artistic Expression." September 11, 2023.