Thesis Title

The Environment is a Factor in Experiencing the Feeling of Safety and Wellness

Graduation Date

Fall 1987

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


In western American culture, because relief from the distress of mental illness is believed to come primarily from professional and pharmaceutical sources, few people view nature or physical circumstances as relevant to cure, or do they use the outdoors specifically as a therapeutic agent. This study presents fifty-six drawings done by patients in three short term in-patient psychiatric units. The patients varied greatly in the severity of their dysfunction, both physically and emotionally. They came from eclectic economic, racial and social backgrounds from high functioning executives to the mentally ill homeless. The researcher hypothesized that if one can identify and draw a safe and healing space, one can then use the drawings to re-create a mental image where one can re-experience that feeling of being safe and healed. Fifty—two case studies are presented which support the hypothesis that nature or the environment are perceived as safe and healing. One hundred percent of the drawings contained some element of nature.