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Jasmine Hilliard

Connections of Hope:  A Continuous Mural Creator by Adult Psychiatric Patients

Wendy Ritchey ATR-BC, LCPC "Strong Heart" March 22, 2004
Acrylic on Canvas 9" x 9"

         Focal question: In a short-term inpatient psychiatric setting, can a continuous mural created by a continually changing group membership foster installation of hope for adult patients?

            The concept of hope is vital in recovery and allows psychiatric patients to have a brighter outlook on their future. Can the creation of a mural on the theme of hope instill a sense of potential positive outcomes both for those who create it and those who view it? This thesis investigated, through an ongoing mural project, the potential for fostering hope in patients at a short-term psychiatric hospital.

            An art therapist’s time with each patient is limited and sometimes unpredictable in a short-term psychiatric setting. I was interested in investigating the potential for transmission of hope not only through interpersonal interaction, but also through graphic images. Patients contributed their images to an ongoing mural and thus were able to witness visual testimonies to hope created by other patients, even those whose stay at the psychiatric hospital had preceded theirs. Would the images alone be enough to convey universality and inspire hope among an ever-changing patient population?

            A variety of patients worked on the mural during one-hour weekly “Connections of Hope” art therapy group sessions. The safe and supportive context of the group allowed for exploration of individual images and ideas as well as group dynamics. Over the course of a three-month period, I recorded patients’ personal narratives about the process and intent of their participation in the mural. I also carefully recorded my observations of each session and visually documented the progress of the mural.

         I used the patients’ narratives and my documentation to assess the effectiveness of the mural project in promoting awareness of connections between past, present, and future patients, and fostering a sense of community and shared hope. I was interested in the potential of the mural production and display for creating a valuable therapeutic experience for both participating and witnessing patients. I anticipated that this shared creative experience would provide a valuable method of establishing a sense of community, developing trust, and enhancing communication of hope among patients and between patients and the art therapist.


          Jasmine Hilliard received BA’s in Psychology and inVisual Arts, graduating with honors from Bemidji State University, Minnesota in 2001. While at SAIC, she received clinical training at the P.E.A.C.H. Club working with at-risk children and teens, and a year of clinical training at Loretto Hospital, working with adults with acute mental illness.


Thesis Advisor: Catherine Moon, Assistant Professor, Art Therapy

Thesis Reader: Barbara Fish, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Art Therapy

Second Reader: John Pounds



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