Thesis Title

"Just Like Us" A Mural Painting Project With Children Living at an Emergency Domestic Violence Shelter

Graduation Date

Fall 2012

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


John Lemmon, PhD

First Reader

Amy Backos, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Lisa Manthe, MFT, ATR-BC


This study explores how a Mural Painting Project could be of therapeutic value to children living in a domestic violence shelter in an urban area of Northern California. Specifically, the Mural Painting Project aimed to increase the children’s sense of community, home, and sense of belongingness as well as decrease feelings of isolation. The project lasted for eight months and was designed as a short-term intervention for children living in the domestic violence shelter (length of stay is anywhere from one to 60 nights). This project was collaborative, ongoing, and any/all children who stayed in the shelter during the eight months were given the opportunity to add to the mural. The researcher used an object relations approach during the course of the project. The mural became a transitional object and a ritual where children could leave their “mark” or “message” (during their transition) for other children entering the shelter. The data

collected showed that the Mural Painting Project was successful in supporting the data collected showed that the Mural Painting Project was successful in supporting the researcher’s hypothesis. In addition, there were discoveries that were not originally sought after but are notable. These included money, house images, family, individuality, hope, ethnicity, safety, peace, lack of childhood, feeling special or important, humor, acting out fear and aggression through metaphor, transitional objects, and attachments. Another unexpected discovery that was found during the course of this project was that the children felt both isolated in the shelter and outside the shelter in their everyday lives.