The European Graduate School
EST. 1994

Arts, Health and Society Division



AHS Research Overview 2011

"Je me souviens"Image as a Tangible Anchor to Memory

Expressive Arts Therapy, with its phenomenological approach, opens doors to personal change through image creation. This thesis explores how these tangible “souvenirs” can act as bridges between therapy sessions and the literal reality of our clients’ day‐to‐day lives. This “bridging” assists them in remembering insights gained in order to shape their experience of the world. Once imagination emerges and the creative process is engaged, the resulting images may enjoy afterlife as anchors, keeping the client’s experience alive rather than receding back into the depths. The personifying of images to restore and “re‐mind” the body, psyche and spirit has its roots deep in ancient shamanic practices as well as contemporary approaches such as Winnicott’s transitional object theory, which I have found effective when working with seniors, addicted youth and bullied children.

2011: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Rowesa Gordon

Student: Sharon D. Benson

Keywords: image creation, imagination, shamanic practices, winnicott, seniors, addicted youth, bullied children

Awakening from traumaMy path to becoming a therapist

In this Master Thesis I explore the question of how I can be most effective as a therapist using music and movement with people who have experienced trauma.

The above question is explored on two levels:

  1. practical therapeutic work in a group setting as well as with an individual  patient
  2. ongoing work on and with myself in the context of my mother's life-threatening illness and eventual death

I have documented my work with the therapy group as well as my therapeutic work with the individual patient in this thesis. Throughout I refer to my own learning and development process.

The documentation is intended to guide the reader through the process which enabled me as a developing therapist to find my therapeutic approach.

2011: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Brigitte Wanzenried

Student: Martina Reinle

Keywords: developing therapist, music, movement, trauma

Beauty and TruthIntroducing the Expressive Arts into the British Columbia Educational School System

This thesis explores the use of Expressive Arts (EXA) approaches in a British Columbian educational context. I utilized EXA's experiential methods in elementary classrooms, individual therapy sessions, and the University of British Columbia's teacher education program to enrich my educational pedagogy and increase academic engagement. Expressive Arts creative processes enhanced inter- and intrapersonal growth, offering communication alternatives for children with academic and behavioural gifts and challenges.
The arts balance the rational and intuitive, and should be central to the curriculum. The Expressive Arts follows a play-oriented, imaginative, intermodal approach to therapy and education; using the visual arts, poetry, storytelling, movement, sound, and drama as vehicles for individual expression. Despite EXA's potential benefit to the public school system, my research uncovered resistance to arts based education. Better communication between EXA practitioners and educators combined with training, which embraces the arts, would provide students with a balanced educational paradigm. In this way, beauty (the arts) can facilitate an individual's search for truth (education).

2011: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Heather Dawson

Student: Karen Betsabé Forrester Lara

Keywords: education, pedagogy, children, public school

From Cocoon to Butterfly: Transformation ProcessCan the image of the butterfly help and give hope to enter in a process of transformation?

This thesis explores the metaphor of butterfly transformation as a support tool and guide to invite a person to enter in a process of transformation. Develop three examples of therapeutic work with different populations (design course with students of architecture, therapeutic workshop with young women from low-income and private practice with a patient with depression) where the biggest obstacle is to enter in a therapeutic process of transformation because they are people who are in a stalemate.

The thesis discovers an immediate connection with the universal image as the Butterfly and the important message of change that it gives. The therapist provides to the patient a safe place and an esthetical guide to build his own cocoon as the base for this process.

2011: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Jose Miguel Calderon

Student: Cecilia Antúnez de Mayolo Cabrera

Keywords: metaphor of butterfly transformation, support tool, guide, therapeutic work

Hodi Hodi: An offering of Expressive Arts Therapy as complimentary cancer care for children in Tanzania

Within the frame of this thesis, the researcher explores the process of offering expressive arts therapy to children living with cancer in Tanzania. The thesis is based on a four-month pilot project facilitated by the author at Ocean Road Cancer Institute in 2010. In a medical and resource-poor environment, where themes of grief, fear, longing, hunger and hope coexisted, the arts were introduced as a complementary care initiative. Through arts-based activities the program participants had the opportunity to become engaged, to explore and share thoughts and feelings, to give voice to images, and also to bring joy into the setting.  A Facilitator's Toolkit was created in order to support the sustainability of an expressive arts program at the hospital and is included as an appendix. Through phenomenological, heuristic and arts-based research the author considers the sociocultural value placed on health, the coexistence of joy and suffering, and what the arts have to offer in such circumstances.

2011: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Sabine Silberberg

Student: Taraneh Erfan King

Keywords: children with cancer, tanzania, hospital, health, coexistence of joy and suffering

How can Storytelling and Creative Writing with Adults be developed within an Expressive Arts Approach?

Both storytelling and creative writing can bring clarity to, and transform, the person in need. The purpose of this research is to show how storytelling and creative writing can be enhanced and become more prominent in intermodal therapeutic work with adults. Storytelling is an ancient art form and, while creative writing is a new art form in comparison to storytelling, both can work together to inspire a work of art and play. Storytelling and creative writing can also intersect with other art forms in expressive way that can bring healing through transformation. This thesis presents the theory which supports this argument. It also outlines the methodology of the research and, finally, details the practical workshops undertaken which reveal the power of storytelling, creative writing, and other arts, in successfully empowering people.

2011: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Ellen G. Levine

Student: Boaz Zur

Keywords: storytelling, creative writing

Living Autism through Creative Writing A case study

This research makes use of case study methodology for research illustrating the door that Expressive Arts opened to a teenager on the Autism Spectrum as he finds a way to express and communicate in our world.
The literature review explores the expressive art therapy principles reflected in this case study. It considers the role of arts and play going through the power of metaphor and creative writing as a tool.
In its core this case study thesis features a detailed phenomenological description of emails exchanged and client house therapy sessions as well as reflections on the part of the therapist regarding perceptions, emotions whilst under her supervision. Data collection includes email exchange from July 2010 and Expressive Arts sessions’ observations in loco from January 2011 to April 2011.

2011: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Judith Greer Essex

Student: Joana Margarida Fins Faria

Keywords: autism, creative writing, case study

Masken - Objekte des Wandels?

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth." (Oscar Wilde)

This Master Thesis explores suitability and applicability of working with masks in EXA. Masks are part of our culture and fulfil a variety of functions. In traditional custom masks are used as symbols and mediators. In rituals they support passages of transition and metamorphosis acting as a "guardian of boundary" between different worlds. Hence, the mask is an archaic inheritance, intimate yet exotic. As an object of disguise the mask provides the basis for the pleasure of play and transformation. Masks allow us to adopt new roles for a defined period of time, to venture on something new, to explore ourselves differently. The message of the mask is made visible in a phenomenological way and thus imagination is the strongest resource used in this context. Expressive-art-oriented work takes advantage of this resource by offering framed spaces which appeal to all senses in order to support, encourage and acknowledge transformation. Mask work can bridging the real and alternative world to response rites of restoration.

2011: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Brigitte Wanzenried

Student: Silvia Suter

Keywords: masks, symbol, rituals, transition, metamorphosis, transformation, play, alternative world

Meeting the Ensouled Other

This is an autoethnographical and literary study of affect regulation in the context of a relationship with the "ensouled other". This discussion examines affect regulation from a developmental perspective: a system of the brain and nervous system that regulates emotional and psychobiological states, and which develops into optimal maturity within the first attachment relationship. While deflections in optimal development can be addressed within relationships throughout the life span (notably, including the therapeutic alliance) it has been conjectured that work in expressive therapies can also support this system to repair and mature. As a therapy of the imagination, it is proposed that expressive arts therapy may offer further support for systems of affect regulation; this support may occur through the imaginal placement of images as independent messengers and partners in the healing process. Through both personal and theoretical accounts, this discussion will explore the potential for the "ensouled other" to offer the artist/client a stabilizing relationship and thus experiences of affect regulation. The implications of this potentially regulating relationship will be examined in the context of expressive arts therapy.

2011: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Kali Dukowski

Student: Laura Dosanjh

Keywords: affect regulation, repair, mature, healing process, ensouled other

Repurposing theatre practices and a theatre practitioner for expressive arts therapy

This thesis investigates the therapeutic value of theatre training activities (mainly voice and movement work) within an expressive arts context, and also considers the process of transition from being a conservatory theatre teacher to being an expressive arts therapist.  Both lines of inquiry are concerned with appropriate and effective adaptation from a pedagogical to a therapeutic setting.  A discussion of expressive arts theory, along with a multitude of theatre performance theories that inform my work, set the scene for this investigation.  My research platform was a theatre-oriented expressive arts workshop involving participants with and without prior arts/expressive arts backgrounds.  I include details of the five three-hour workshop sessions, with detailed descriptions of the activities, discussion of participants and their personal journeys, along with observations and reflections.  Analysis is based on data from intake and exit interviews, participant journals and my own notes and journals. What begins as arts-based and phenomenological research quickly takes on heuristic characteristics as I uncover hidden assumptions and habits of mind indigenous to the theatre world in general, and professional training in particular.  This leads to a discussion of what worked, what didn’t and why.  Finally, I reflect on my long journey from theatre practitioner to therapist and suggest new directions for applying theatre resources to expressive arts therapy.

2011: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Ellen G Levine

Student: Catherine Marrion

Keywords: theatre practices, theatre practitioner, theater, repurpose, somatic, spoken voice, teaching theatre professionals

The Art of Expanding Communication

As writers, listeners and therapists, the words we use are important. My study in expressive arts therapy (EXAT) has further heightened my sense of language as a therapist and as a writer. The first edition of "Loving Your Life" (LYL) was published in 2004, before I undertook six years of formal EXAT education. The success of the book has warranted the effort and value for writing a thesis that identifies and examines the intermodal and theoretical underpinnings of EXAT which contribute to and provide the basis for clarifications and expansion in language, and creative experience resulting in a second edition of LYL. My hope is the EXAT provides a framework and language that further elevates the book to one of importance not only to individuals using the arts for personal growth but for professionals in the field of EXAT. The purpose of the thesis therefore is to understand how expressive arts therapy training effected changes in the book.

2011: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Melanie Nesbitt

Student: Elke Scholz Riëlah

Keywords: language, writer

The Art of The Doll Doll as Tool For Transformation and Container For Narrative

Can doll making be an expressive arts therapy process?
The thesis looks retrospectively at both personal experience and the story of a specific client, while applying the principles of expressive arts therapy. It examines the use of the doll as container and tool for transformation based on historic, anthropological and scholarly references. The document works through twenty-one client surveys and the self-study, compares and contrasts what changed and did not change as a result of my expressive arts education and training.
Major findings include the importance of the role of the facilitator in the change process, particularly artist as change agent and art helper; how object relations theory supports a change of identity; the significance of telos; and the role of chaos theory in doll making as a healing process.

2011: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Judith Greer Essex

Student: Dewart Lynn

Keywords: doll making, chaos theory, healing process

The Empty Mirror In Search of Authenticity through Self-portraiture and Neutral Mask

What does self mean? What defines self, and how can that self be expressed and shown outwardly? Can you see your-self? You is both singular and plural, one and including many. "You" puts into question the very idea of identity.
In this study, I seek to face the question of identity in terms of self-portraiture and neutral mask. The research paper follows the heuristic study and possible future development of a synthesized method of self-portraiture and neutral mask work. The researcher offers the experiences of participants of a small research group with this method as means for discovering meanings and essences that emerge from an art-based approach. As part of this study, I offer a definition of the two modalities – self-portraiture and neutral mask and some background of philosophical as well as theoretical ideas that have influenced the choice of topic and the structure of the clinical experiment. The concepts of identity and identification are also examined in philosophical terms. The culmination of the paper is the crystallization of the realization that the very nature of the goal set forth in the beginning is elusive – to 3 express identity through disidentification; to depict – in other words make a snapshot of - authenticity, which as a state of being can never be static, categorized, framed or explained. The paper ends where it starts, but the place of arrival is somehow recognized as if for the first time.

2011: Master Thesis (English)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Ellen G. Levine

Student: Elitsa Velikova

Keywords: self, identity, self-portraiture, neutral mask