Thesis Title

Books of Grace: Participatory Action Research, Narrative Art Therapy, and Altered Book Making With Adult Members of Gracious Community Center, Creating Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Development and Change

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

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC


This paper examines how narrative therapy in the form of altered book making can be used in art therapy with adults with developmental and mental disorders/diagnosis. Books of Grace is a community art therapy based research project, the goal of which is to guide our understanding of the adult mentally ill by using visual art making as the induction to their experiences and stories. Participatory Action Research (PAR) sets the stage for doing research as a collaborative process utilizing the researchers, members and the staff of Gracious Community Center (GCC) in downtown San Jose, California. This project involves art therapy from a narrative model using altered book making as the vehicle. As an outcome of this study, through the analysis of observation and patients statements, five key themes emerged: self-esteem, coping with a mental illness diagnosis, friendship and family closeness or loneliness, art and creativity as a therapeutic process, and perseveration. Beginning to ask the right questions pertaining to the needs of adults with mental and developmental disabilities is the first step in improving quality of life, self-esteem, and societal focus for this population.