Creative Coping: Don Jones Assessment

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Using art to assess coping styles and problem-solving skills in therapy!

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Learn how to use the Don Jones Expressive Arts Therapy Assessment (DJA), a creative assessment to evaluate coping and problem solving skills in therapy.

As a therapist, I know how important it is to understand the client's unique coping style, existing coping skills, problem-solving skills, and level of tolerance for frustration. Many times, clients come to us because their pattern of behaviors are unhealthy or they feel stuck. Uncovering this information about a client is valuable!

When it comes to coping and problem-solving, I use one of the most potent art therapy assessments I have found, the "Don Jones Assessment." I have been using this assessment for about two years now with my clients, and it has shown me time and time again how valuable a tool it is!

An Expressive Arts Therapy Assessment

This assessment addresses the four areas mentioned above, but it can also provide deep insight and allow for the processing of feelings of helplessness, anxiety, fear, and difficulty with control. This assessment creates a safe space to utilize creativity, imagination, and art to symbolically and actively solve obstacles in our lives.

This assessment is by Don Jones, one of the pioneers of the field of art therapy. This assessment is a mixture of story and imagery. The story focuses on creating a description of an adventure that presents the client with four obstacles.

The client is invited to create a drawing resolving each obstacle presented. The original protocol for this assessment has been challenging to find. I first learned the evaluation by way of mouth and then later found a few other versions in books and articles online.

Since I was unable to locate the original adventure story, I told my version when using this directive in session based on four recurring themes present in all versions of this assessment that I have discovered thus far. The journey is set in either a forest or mountains. The obstacles are as follows: crossing a river to get to the other side, confronting an animal, getting past a monster guarding a cave, and ending the journey by re