Silver Hands: Art Therapy Activities with Survivors of Domestic Violence

by Heidi Pedersen

This thesis examines the value of a drop in art therapy group for residents at an emergency shelter. Specifically, this thesis examines the role of intentional strength building art therapy directives with recent trauma survivors. The residents are survivors of domestic violence and stay at the shelter for roughly one month. The topic of domestic violence is discussed through a comparison with the timeless fairy tale of The Handless Maiden, and the participants’ individual stories are valued through this fairy tale lens simultaneously. As the women and children are very much in the midst of their crisis, it would generally not be advisable to conduct in depth psycho-therapy sessions as it may do more harm than good. However, this thesis examines the role of art therapy activities for building internal strengths during this critical time frame. The intentionality of these activities is examined in consideration of these participants. For continuity, a first person action research approach was utilized in light of the unpredictable attendance of participants. A feedback survey helped to reduce bias with the research. The art activities were found to be of value to the women and children, with numerous benefits. Recommendations in the discussion reflect the activities that may be most beneficial for building internal strengths in survivors of recent trauma.