Thesis Title

The Collarborative Mural: An Art Intervention Offering Curative Experiences for the Individual, Group, and Community

Graduation Date

Fall 1998

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


This quasi-experimental research study examines the collaborative group mural process and its possible curative effects on the individual’s sense of mastery, the individual’s peer relationships, and the individual’s sense of community. Ten (10) Severely Emotionally Disturbed (SED) youth in two (2) separate groups, worked on two (2) murals in the same milieu room of an inner-city partial day treatment center in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pre and no

The results of this research indicate the need for both longer interventions and for longitudinal examination of the results over time. The young people’s genet"? mastery showed no change overall, but their mastery as related to the specific skills and the sense of accomplishment they acquired through the mural intervention were greatly affected, e.g. 90% of the youth indicated they felt more talented during this project” than they had before its beginning. The voun* people s peer relationships were considerably taxed during the mural-making process due to their severe emotional disturbances, this interpersonal difficult was reflected in both the Index of Peer Relations and the Group Relations sechon of the Mural Questionnaire. In the Mural Questionnaire, the young people showed a strong sense of community; the majority (60% and and higher) of the youth also indicated that they had gained competency in all of the skills which the mural had aimed to teach. This solid sense of community and high-level o<- competency in skill acquisition both point to the longitudinal aspect of the young people’s mastery: much of the mural collaboration was work that cannot be ® measured immediately after the intervention, but takes the form of “planting seeds” that may later come to fruition as the young person matures The short qualitative exit interviews served as a form of closure for the youth revealing both the empowerment and the fury that stemmed from the mural project Five (5) themes of central tendency from the written observations of the eighteen (1 St Research Assistants were gathered; they are as follows: resistance/ hostilitv pride/excitement, avoidance/distractibility, boundary/territory, and cooperation/ homework. The Researcher s own personal journal entries during the month long intervention are also examined in this paper.

Concluding thoughts involve discussing the challenges of testing young people who are SED, exploring the use of objective observers as keys to measuring subtle changes in attitude and behavior of SED young people and finally examining both limitations and recommendation for further research