Thesis Title

The Efficacy of Creating an Art Based Plant Terrarium as a "Living Altar" to Help Individuals Cope with the Loss of a Companion Animal

Graduation Date

Spring 2013

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

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Lisa Manthe, MFT, ATR-BC


Due to the short lifespan of animals and the increasing numbers of pet owners each year, many individuals will be faced with the loss of a companion animal at some point in his or her life. This research study hypothesized that creating an art based plant terrarium, as a “living altar” will help individuals cope with the loss of a pet. The researcher also hypothesized that participants with a stronger attachment to their pets will experience a greater benefit from the art process than participants with lower attachment. This study sought to answer the question: Will creating an art based plant terrarium as a “living altar” help individuals cope with the loss of a companion animal? The study entailed the use mixed qualitative and quantitative surveys with closed and open-ended questions and an art process to collect data. Common themes were explored from the loss stories, positive memories, and the imagery in the terrariums. The findings of this study revealed that all participants found the art process and group environment helpful. Also, the study showed a positive correlation between strength of attachment and the art process.