Therapy room mural evolved with input

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — When Sullivan and Associates Clinical Psychology was about to undergo improvements to the child therapy room, owner Jennifer Sullivan and her husband Trevor made sure to keep business local and commissioned the work of entrepreneur and artist Brian Nieminen.

“We wanted to build a bigger play therapy room essentially to accommodate younger children,” said Trevor Sullivan, a licensed psychotherapist and managing director of the centre.

“Jennifer had the inspiration to do something magical and very welcoming.”

Sullivan explained how a therapy process can cause nervousness and anxiety for young children, which is why his wife Jennifer wanted something inviting and welcoming that would really stand out and make them feel comfortable.

“So she contacted Brian and he created this wonderful mural,” he said.

The result was a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling mural measuring more than 20 feet long and nine feet high.

Roberta Barrow, the centre’s office manager, says they captivated that “something magical.”

“The mural just adds another dimension so that children can access their imagination,” Barrow said. “It activates their imagination. They might fixate on the welcome sign and the door opening and what that may mean to them. But it’s part of bringing in other aspects to allow children to talk about their feelings and maybe use a little escapism.”

Nieminen described how he and Jennifer “did some brainstorming” and the mural evolved.

“We tried a couple of different ideas. I started playing with forest images to do a nice tranquil, beautiful forest scene but it didn’t have the magic that Jennifer wanted. She was very creative and really made a difference,” he said.

Nieminen, who calls himself a “night person,” says he couldn’t count the hours he spent on the mural.

“I don’t work nine to five. I was coming in (to the therapy room) at 11 o’clock at night and working until four in the morning sometimes. I do a lot of stuff late at night because it is totally quiet and I can concentrate,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Sullivan says it’s extremely important to search out local businesses to partner with, especially for an important project like this one.

“When you look all around this building, it’s all (done through) partnerships — not only what we do day to day but my gosh, I could name drop for the next 20 minutes but all the people who really are crucial for just helping us grow and expand and serve the community better,” he said.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal