Art Therapy Program for Children of Battered Women

Graduation Date

Spring 1995

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


Children from violent homes are often abused themselves, suffer psychologically in profound ways, and are more likely to continue this pattern in their own adult relationships than children from non-violent homes (Straus & Gelles, 1980; Jaffe, Wolfe & Wilson, 1990).

Due to the absence of services for children from violent homes in Santa Cruz, and the tremendous need for attention to this population, the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center (WAWC) seeks funding for an art therapy program for children of battered women, with children and their mothers, and support groups for older children of battered women. Women’s Crisis Support, which operates the battered women’s shelter in Santa Cruz, also perceives this need, and will refer families who enter the shelter to this program, and agrees to bring the program into the shelter setting. The two component program will offer individual and group art therapy for children as well as family counseling for residents within the shelter. The program will also provide support groups for children of battered women concurrent with existing support groups for battered women at the WAWC.

Art Therapy has been chosen as the treatment modality because of its capacity to access difficult emotional material in a non-threatening way, and because it provides engaging activities which promote processing feelings, problem-solving and healthy coping strategies. The program will utilize the services of an MFCC Intern who is also trained in Art Therapy. The immediate objectives of the program are to relieve children’s confusion and situational stress, to help them establish healthy coping strategies and ways to remain safe in a volatile family situation, and to explore alternatives to violent interactions. Long range goals emphasize education and the prevention of the transgenerational reenactment of violence.

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