Art Therapy at Joy’s House

April 16, 2018


Hi Everyone! My name is Brittany, and this semester I had the pleasure of facilitating a six-week art therapy group at Joy’s House. I am a Master of Arts in Art Therapy candidate at Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). After submitting a proposal for my graduate thesis, I was connected with Joy’s House to do this study. Though I was excited to have this opportunity in the first place, I had no idea how much I would truly enjoy the weeks I spent here with the group of guests I made art with.

So, what is art therapy? The American Art Therapy Association (2017) defines art therapy as “an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.” Art media cultivates engagement with color and texture, empowering the individuals who participate in art-making. Regardless of artistic skill or experience, art therapy can be used to provide therapeutic care.

The purpose of this art therapy study was to measure the quality of life of participants before and after the six-week group. Eight guests participated in the study. I interviewed the guests and family members before and after facilitating the group. The group met one hour a week for six-weeks and created a life review project. Each guest received an 18-by-24-inch piece of thick white artist paper pre-divided into six sections, one for each week of the study. The titles for each week were pre-written above each of the six sections. These titles represent what an art therapist, Judith Wald (1989), considered important phases life – “Childhood,” “School Days,” “Special Occasion,” “Adulthood,” “Work,” and “The Present.” I also provided colored pencils, markers, pre-cut collage images, and glue sticks each week.

Following the six-week group, I looked over the data collected and found that quality of life had improved for several guests that participated in the group. For example, quality of life scores for friends and relationship with friends increased for six of the eight guests that participated. Scores for health, mood, and fun also increased for five of the eight guests. In addition, I noticed that of the art materials provided, collage was selected 100% of the time. One guest chose to use colored pencils in addition to the pre-cut collage images and glue sticks during the last session of the study.

This entire process has been tremendously rewarding. I am thankful for Corrina and Joy’s House for helping me with this project. To the guests and family members that participated in this group, thank you for the time you dedicated to this work. I experienced so much joy and laughter during each group session, and will cherish the stories everyone shared for years to come.




American Art Therapy Association. (2017). What is art therapy? Retrieved from

Wald, J. (1989). Art therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. In H. Wadeson, D. Perach, & J. Durkin (Eds.), Advances in art therapy (p. 204-221). New York, NY: Wiley.