Genogram and Other Tools to Use in The Family Art Therapy

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2810 |

Pages: 6|

15 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Words: 2810|Pages: 6|15 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Main Causes of Couple Conflicts
  3. Traditional Couple Therapy vs Art Therapy
  4. Techniques of Couple Art Therapy and The Facilitations
  5. Conclusion
  6. References


The research paper is going to examine the level of effectiveness of expressive art therapy to act as a facilitator for resolving relational conflicts through different art interventions comprising family portraits, drawings, clay, and genogram. The analysis would be carried out to investigate the functions art intervention serve and the process of facilitation. Then, compared to the traditional model of couple therapy and explore the benefits of art therapy in a bid to illustrate the helpfulness when working with couples with conflicts in terms of the attachment theory, communication style as well as conflict theory.

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Main Causes of Couple Conflicts

Conflicts generally result from discrepancies in perception and needs between two sexes. According to Gottman (2008), it results in misunderstanding, anger, dissatisfaction, and emotional withdrawal, etc. (Gottman, 2008). There are numerous influences that is likely to provoke couple conflicts. First and foremost, insecure attachment styles to adult relationships. Hazan and Shaver indicated that variations in early social experience would generate totally different relationship styles; moreover, it is suggested that attachment styles developed as an infant is highly relevant to loving relationship after growing up (Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Shaver & Hazan, 1988; Shaver, Hazan, & Bradshaw, 1988).). Specifically, “avoidant” feel difficult to establish trust with others and “anxious-ambivalent” are more likely to report a lack of independence and a desire for deep commitment in relationships (Feeney & Noller, 1990). Thereby, people with insecure attachment style are more likely to amplify unfulfilled hopes, self-conscious anxiety as well as personal and social self-esteem; Meanwhile, contains frequent and intense communication problems such as misunderstanding, unrealistic expectations, resentment, criticisms (Holman & Jarvis, 2003). Thus, mismatched conflict styles lead to high engagement of conflicts. For example, one partner would be emotionally flooded due to higher degree of intensity and frequency of mismatches.

Then, cause various negative couples outcomes such as lower relationship stability and lower relationship satisfaction (Busby & Holman, 2009). More importantly, Gottman (1994) has proposed that relational conflicts are most likely caused by the theory of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. If couples are frequently “complaining” and “criticizing” one’s spouse, it will lead to the second horseman's “contempt” and produces the third horseman's “defensiveness” respectively. Finally, results in the fourth horseman “stonewalling” (Gottman, 1994). Since criticism always accompanies with by the expression of contempt such as disrespectful communication, an individual’s defensiveness will increase in order to protect his or her own interests. Certainly, they are denying responsibilities whereas making excuses for unfavorable behaviors, and reacting to complaints with countercomplaints; the stonewalling will then bring about emotional alienation from conflict interactions (Levenson, Carstensen & Gottman, 1994). Although some of individuals who stonewall often revealed that they are displaying calmness, rationality, and objectivity, actually they are implicitly expressing their arrogance and dissatisfaction (Canary & Cupach,1988).

Traditional Couple Therapy vs Art Therapy

In order to alleviate and resolve conflicts, it is necessary to increase the couple's client’s awareness of the problem, augment empathy between them as well as develop new resolutions together. In the traditional therapeutic process, couples mostly seek to couple therapy in order to resolve their conflicts. However, especially communication expression of Chinese communication tends to be more implicit and concerned about losing face. Individuals tend not to face and resolve the problem as they would avoid discussing the issues. Even though when they were under the lead of a therapist, they might be nervous and fear of telling the therapist everything without concealing it. Alternative counseling approaches such as art therapy can facilitate the counseling process and avoid the above problem. Subsequently, couples are more likely to develop a balanced awareness of strengths and weaknesses between partners during the counseling process. (Gurman, Lebow & Snyder, 2015).

Art therapy could help to enhance the discoveries among the above aspects. On one hand, couple therapists typically show minimal interest in a couple’s general patterns of interaction and tend to emphasize resolving the result of the presenting problems (Pinsof, 1995). On the other hand, art therapy is more likely to focus on the process which is able to provide new insights to the healing process. Issues arise in a relationship most likely owing to past beliefs, assigned roles, and the differing viewpoints between two people. Art expressions contain unlimited variations that allow individuals to freely associate and express themselves. Conflictual issues become visible when transforming abstract words into material that can be altered (Riley, 1994). Moreover, Landgarten (1981) evoked that conjoint art therapy can help couples to reexamine the roles in their relationship creative value for them; in the meantime, greatly enhance couple-goal achievement than the conventional mode of couple therapy (Landgarten, 1981). Furthermore, visual images of interpersonal glitches represent several rigid patterns of behavior. Increasing awareness facilitates a new style of communication; while advantageous to establish therapeutic goals and create a treatment plan (Shalmon, McLaughlin & Keefler, 2012). The use of art therapy techniques provides an additional means of communication and expression. The images that couples create and react to are spontaneous and genuine. They are less guarded by defense mechanisms than traditional verbal expressions because art created and processed in therapy can reflect the unconscious (Wadeson, 1980).

Besides, it is known that co-working in creative expression can increase a couple’s capability of managing adversities and difficulties together. A study demonstrated that metaphor and meaning creative expression exercise to promote linkage between couple toward external hardship. It illustrates that co-construct art is beneficial to strengthen mutual resilience, hopefulness, togetherness, a sense of accomplishment, etc. (White & Epston, 1990). The couple who received art therapy is more likely to enhance rebuilding and develop new perspectives as well (Fergus, Ahmad, Lanakieva, McLeod & Carter, 2017). Precisely, creating several products helps externalize the problem and narrate the experience (Skerrett, 2003). As the couple explores externalized visual expressions in their artistic products, it offers an opportunity to launch a mutual exploratory view of each circumstance. By using the techniques of reflecting and tracking, a variety of alternative meanings would be revealed (Riley & Malchiodi, 1994). Hence, clients are more likely to view from different perspectives from the same event after the process. This is important for resolving the couple's conflicts.

Techniques of Couple Art Therapy and The Facilitations

There are a number of art-based assessments commonly used in art therapy that help to obtain information about individual characteristics and relationship structure. For instance, family portraits, drawings, clay, and genograms. Artwork can raise people's awareness by building the bridge between reality and the message of the art product; while constructing positive therapeutic relationships rapidly and effectively (Ricco, 2007). Similarly, the healing process is more likely to be accomplished successfully under the basis. By working together, therapists directly observe the couple’s non-verbal behaviors, interactional patterns, and boundaries can reveal patterns of dominance, decision-making, cooperation, levels of task involvement as well as levels of interpersonal involvement between couples (Wadeson, 1980). Likewise, through the originated metaphors, the therapist is likely to gain empathy and understanding of client’s perception of the world. In spite of the inconsistency between content of the art products and behaviors observed by therapists, it is still effective for increasing clients’ own awareness (Fergus, Ahmad, Lanakieva, McLeod & Carter, 2017).

Certainly, clients will be asked to state some meanings or share their point of view when they look at another’s drawing afterward (Halford, 2001). The process emphasized the perceptions, misperceptions, and projections of each other. Since the couple is forced to listen to how the companion interprets and projects meaning in his or her art, they can have a better exploration of the meaning of the spouse’s image (Kaiser & Deaver, 2009). In addition, it helps extended to an examination of the incongruence between the intentions underlying one’s behaviors and the ways these behaviors are interpreted by others. It is an effective intervention when used with couples for enhancing understanding of one and another’s thoughts and feelings (Snir & Wiseman, 2010).

Specifically, portrayal unconsciously creates a symbol for the problem. Besides, it augments communication between couple as they probably unable to understand the drawing from their partner. This exercise can act as a way of starting a dialogue around the misconception that couples often hold, and they can know more about partner’s thoughts and feelings toward the relationship. Meanwhile, recognize the importance of listening in communications (Sori & Hecker, 2007). Change is factually completed through the cutting and shaping of the dual drawing.

Drawings play an extremely important role for facilitate communications. For instance, “Draw A Couple in the Rain” simplify dialogue, discussion, and communication between the couple (Lantz & Alford, 1995) and helps to expose relationship problems and the meaning potentials accompanying with the relational problems. The metaphors are able to demonstrate the aspects of strengths and weakness in their relationship. As for the “Two Pine Trees in a Forest Technique”, it strengthens the reflection and discussion about communication, structural issues and cohesion-independence issues (Lantz & Alford, 1995). Furthermore, “Draw The House of The Future Technique” also good for couples who enter different stages of their relationship. The house implies the future, thus augment reflection and discussion about the couple’s goals, hopes, ideals and dreams. After the process, greater mutual understanding will be achieved.

Apart from that, playing clay gave the couple a dynamic vehicle to demonstrate concretely unresolved inner anxieties (Shalmon, McLaughlin & Keefler, 2012). Clients are required to place their clay figures in relation to each other at a distance that was comfortable. They have to choose a moderate distance that said as a comfort zone. After the activity, couples are likely to agree that the “figures would stand still until next week” which represents that tension would not disappear if they are not going to handle it with applied actions (Halford, 2001). Explicitly, three-dimensional media is allocated for movement, metaphorically redefining the conflictual issues by exchanging colors (Riley, 2003). It provides the couples with a better understanding of their own transactions had become a pattern that making what kind of influences to a romantic relationship. In the meantime, explore a more appropriate communication pattern in order to improve the relationship.

Last but not least, art therapy genogram is widely used during the couple's therapy session because the couple's relationship most likely formed by the primary relationship and attachment. Namely, prototype. The interaction pattern within the family probably constructs different feelings and system of values. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the manner of resolving conflict is a learned behavior and most characteristically began by observing family-of-origin patterns. Couples in distress focus on negative perceptions regarding one another’s dialogue and behaviors (Ricco, 2007). Once negative family-of-origin influences of communication patterns have been identified, it is more likely to trigger relational problems. Therefore, the clinician would help to identify key figures in each family of origin, formative events in each family’s past as well as the history of the marriage. Dynamic markings indicate proximity and distance with crucial family members and within two lovers; meanwhile, figure out fusion or cutoff which probably affects the boundary around the marriage; also investigate the repetitive patterns (Riley, 2003). During the activities, the couple would be asked for narrating about the problem and how each spouse perceives its origin, meaning, and sequence (Gurman, Lebow & Snyder, 2015). After that, client would be asked to portray the relationships and generational patterns individually by using color and images to expand the content of the symbols (McGoldrick & Gerson, 1985). Color-coding behaviors examine a couple’s traits and behaviors (Bobes & Rothman, 1998.) Thus, deeper understanding of the other’s family can be achieved in terms of the behavioral patterns and relationships over the generations as well as the emotional climate of their family (Riley & Malchiodi, 1994). It is necessary to expand the relationship an awareness of the patterns through observation through genogram. In addition, the two of them can see how their families’ interactions were similar and differed. Hence, they can develop new resolutions concerning the couple fight.


In a nutshell, the art expression opens doors to substantial relationship by couples find alternative solutions to their conflicts and to produce a more favored outcome. Art therapy act as alternative variations in the narrative of the life event and provide with different meanings and allow couples to view through diverse perspectives and angles (Christensen & Jacobson, 2000). Through the art interventions, the couple conflicts are significantly alleviated by reducing the Four Horsemen. By heightening companions’ awareness of the causes of the unresolved conflicts, while couples are having better understanding of partner’s thoughts and feelings. Empathy is able to increase. They are more willing to listen to each other’s needs and desires. Amount of “criticisms”, “complaints” and “contempt” decreases, individuals are less likely to defense or counterattacking. Moreover, the art expression process provides a positive environment for appreciate and respect. Couples are more likely to notice the strengths and gain better understanding of each other.

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Thus, the emotional disengagement from interaction will be decreased during the conflict. In other words, “stonewalling” phenomenon would be reduced as couple who received art therapy is more likely to resolve the relational conflicts in a positive direction. Since the direction become more positive and consistent; while they are more competence in self-expression and ready to be the listener, couple is less likely to acquire mismatched communication styles. Simultaneously, frequency and intensity of feeling emotionally flooded decreased whereas recovered the relationship stability and satisfaction. As a consequence, secure feelings would be intensified under the peaceful and empathetic circumstance. The romantic relationship can also be improved whenever awareness, understanding, empathy and appreciation, etc. are being reinforced. In light of this, art therapy able to enrich the effectiveness and capacity of the therapeutic process apart from talk therapy in working with couple conflicts.


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Genogram and Other Tools to Use in the Family Art Therapy. (2023, August 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from
“Genogram and Other Tools to Use in the Family Art Therapy.” GradesFixer, 04 Aug. 2023,
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