The European Graduate School
EST. 1994

Arts, Health and Society Division



AHS Research Overview 2014

A Dance of Expressive Arts and Yoga

This thesis explores the practices of expressive arts and yoga, which are personally linked with the research and held close to the heart. Phenomenological exploration of the work with the clients, a heuristic view, and an arts-based approach are at the heart of this research method. The author describes her applied practice in a phenomenological way. In three different settings - a corporation, a high school, and a yoga studio - the author illustrates the process of introducing a new approach and documents the process. In this, she takes the skills and wisdom she learned from daily yoga practice and applied them to working with expressive arts and behind the scenes. later, journals of painting and yoga are represented as parallel ways to record how the author engages in these two practices, and how this engagement assisted her through transitions in life. Throughout, the researcher reveals the challenges, triumphs and surprises she encountered along the way.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Markus Alexander

Student: Paye Tina Huerlimann Chou

Keywords: yoga, expressive arts

An exploration of the Imagaination as a tool for addiction recovery

This thesis highlights the application of Expressive Arts interventions in the context of an addiction recovery program in Kenya. Current socio‐economic challenges are explored in relation to Expressive Art Therapy workshops at The Omari Project in Malindi Kenya, a rehabilitation center for recovering drug and substance addicts. The workshops were designed to address both personal and communal issues, with the aim to build self esteem and strengthen group cohesion. In order to prevent relapse and encourage a wholesome and culturally fluent recovery process, the arts were introduced as a complimentary approach to an already established addictions recovery program. Through a Phenomenological lens, I describe how Expressive Arts contributed to the improvement in self‐confidence, communication skills and overall self‐esteem. Through these lived experiences, I address how the arts have a vast ability to transform and encourage positive growth at the individual and community levels.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Carrie MacLeod

Student: Sophie Kelliher

Keywords: addiction, rehab, dislocation, free market society, kenya

Body & SoulReclaiming Self Through The Expressive Arts

Can participation in arts-based (Expressive Arts) processes facilitate a re-connection with the core or authentic self in women whose lives have been affected by negative body image and can it effect positive change in how such women see and accept themselves? As women in Western society are faced with increasingly unattainable standards of beauty, many are unhappy with, and deeply critical of, their appearance. Using body image as a doorway to exploring the inner world can effect a more integrated acceptance of the self, including the body.This thesis presents the explorations and discoveries of a small group of women working with arts-based processes in a series of structured weekly workshops; and shows how working with the expressive arts can positively affect how ordinary women experience and accept their physical and core selves.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Wayne Sutherland

Student: Bronwen Burton

Keywords: body image, women, groups, intermodal, feminist, self inquiry, resourcing, soul work

Conversations At The Edge Of Play

This thesis explores the relevance of play in the lived experience of Expressive Arts therapists. Theories of play and its definition were reviewed from the following perspectives: historical and cultural, theoretical, therapeutic and Expressive Arts theory. The project began as a self inquiry that was inspired by the primary researcher's experiences of play within the Expressive Arts training at the European Graduate School in Saas Fee Switzerland. Later the project broadened to include co-researchers who had attended the same school. Researchers in this project were asked to engage play as a solo in a purposeful effort to ask questions about what happens in play when we step away from our play community and begin to offer play to others. This thesis was guided by two specific questions: 1) What is the lived experience of play in expressive arts therapy? 2) Does this lived experience of play influence the practice of expressive arts therapists? The collective data was approached from an arts based phenomenological and heuristic perspective. This project gave voice to the ways in which play has a central role in the life and practice of the expressive arts. Core themes that were apparent in the synthesis of results were: the usefulness of engaging in and being inspired by play practice, the importance of play as a pathway to embodied knowledge, the significance of tension in play, and the importance of the nurturance of play in expressive arts practice.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Mary Reich

Student: Sabette Thompson

Keywords: relavence of play in lived experience of expressive arts therapists

Engaging Autism with Expressive Arts to Increase Play Range

This thesis brings to light some benefits of using Expressive Arts and a non-hierarchical approach with an autistic child. This therapist offers a unique viewpoint as she has worked in two roles with the same client: in a hierarchical teaching role, then as an equal player, herself inspired and stimulated by the client's newly awakened ability to improvise. By working in the modality of theatre with improvisation and dramatic play, a child who engages in stimulatory, repetitive and rigid behavior accepts the expressive arts therapist's offers to enter the imaginal realm and expands his range of play. An unintentional phenomenon takes place; the client's repetitive self-stimulating, (stimming) behaviors decrease during the expressive art sessions, inviting curiosity as to how his habitual life could be further enhanced by imaginative play.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Judith Greer Essex

Student: Marissa McInerney

Keywords: autism, stimulatory behavior, non-hierarchical approach, teaching, improvisation, theatre, range of play, dramatic play, child

Expressive Art Therapy as a Gift to Iranian Immigrant Women

Can Expressive Arts Therapy help Iranian imigrans, Persian female expatriates living in Southern California, recover from the symptoms of culture shock?

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Judith Greer Essex

Student: Saedeh Rahimi

Keywords: culture shock, iranian imigrants, iranian women

From Isolated to ConnectedCreating the Pieces of Meaningful Relationship

Jane is a woman diagnosed with psychological and development disabilities. Her symptoms make forming relationships a never-ending obstacle to tackle. Struggling with aggressive outbursts, and becoming engulfed in a world of her own misconceptions, makes it very difficult for her to connect with others. In our non-hierarchical relationship, Jane followed my offerings of expressive arts therapy interventions and aesthetic attractors, which allowed her to tune into her senses. Her connection with the materials, sounds, shapes, textures, and movements formed the ground for a physiological experience of the here and now. This increased her empowerment while establishing a positive change in mood, demeanor and interaction. We were able to use the arts not only as the as a communication tool but as the medium to bring us to a state of mutual understanding and respect for one another.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Donna Otter

Student: Meggie Evans

Keywords: developmental disability, bipolar disorder, dual diagnosis, feminism, phenomenology, low skill high sensitivity, aesthetic attractors

From the inside to the outside, and from the outside to the inside: a path with return.The arts as companions and route signals in transition processes

The present thesis, narrates from a personal and existential account, how the expressive arts are capable of becoming route signals for our own path, and in such way accompany transition processes. The metaphor of the spiral is used to explain the process of transition and learning of our axis topics in a cyclical level. Each turn of the spire welcomes more integration, recognition and personal wisdom, achieving in each spiral more transcendence. This involves a time inwards and outwards, with a mirror point announcing an awakening, and a point of return that allows detachment. The arts, through the different Beings encountered - manifestations and qualities - appear on the way of the spiral to accompany transitions, bring messages and questions, give new meaning to the journey and a better understanding of ourselves.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Jose Miguel Calderon

Student: Patricia Ramos Olivera

Keywords: cycle, spiral, connection, arts as companions


The Concept of Dedication or Devotionthis Master of Arts thesis in an appeal for the idea of Dedication or Devotion, in German „Hingabe". In this Master Thesis, I have examined the concept of Dedication from various points of view and my research is always rooted in the following question: „How can I integrate the idea of Dedication with Art and Expressive Therapy in such a way that those people who, entrust themselves to me are enable to find the path to their own sense of dedication and as a result, become capable of creativity originating in their own sources of strengh?"

2014: Master Thesis (German)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Brigitte Wanzenried

Student: Kathrin Thurnherr

Keywords: the concept of dedication or devotion

Knowing and Not KnowingEncountering the Unexpected

In this thesis I explore the use of intermodal transfer as a means of working directly with the felt sense. The central question in the work is whether this process of intermodal transfer can access a way of knowing that is different from our habitual ways of thinking. The process used to explore this question involved a workshop that included meditation, movement, image making and dialogue with the image. This thesis describes the work done in the workshops and includes the images, the voices of the images and the discoveries that emerged from this process There were five workshops over a period of three months with a total of 19 participants. Participants consistently identified that the process and the image provided them with new or deeper and more encompassing perspectives.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Wayne Sutherland

Student: Joan Sutherland

Keywords: intermodal transfer, dialogue with the image, focusing, felt sense, mindfulness, meditation, movement, image making, visual art process, workshop method, ways of knowing through art, intuitive art

Permission to Play

The following study asks the questions, "How can we create an attitude of play in an art-making process? What are ways we can overcome our fear and find enjoyment in the experience of uncertainty?"
The researcher explored these questions by asking skilled artists, including an art teacher, to paint on their own without using a "frame of reference," a technique to which they were accustomed. The artist researcher underwent the same process then facilitated an Expressive Arts group painting experience. The results identify factors that help ease one into an art-making process by overcoming fear, and in doing so finding play, surprise, and flow.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Mary Putera

Student: Marni Segal

Keywords: play, uncertainty, surprise, flow

Studienreise nach KosovoEin situiertes Lehr-Lern-Arrangement auf der tertiären Ausbildungsstufe. Evaluation der Bedeutung für die individuellen Erkenntnis- und Entwicklungsprozesse der Studierenden

This evaluation research study focuses on the teaching-learning-arrangement of the training module «Migration: Encounters abroad» at the Zurich University of Teacher Education. The arrangement is based on principles of art analogy and the didactic of facilitation. The study analyses the retrospective evaluation of various elements of the teaching-learning-arrangement by the participating students, employing a narrative interview technique. The interview material has been examined through four different perspectives: Firstly, the complexity and variety of encounters with foreigners is examined. Secondly, the students' insights and experiences with their host families are portrayed. Thirdly, the efficacy and significance of the most essential elements of the teaching-learning-arrangement are assessed. Finally, the interplay of various elements is evaluated. The students' diaries, the group meetings, the art-oriented reflections and the importance of informal conversations are analyzed separately.

2014: Ph.D. Dissertation (German)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Peter Wanzenried

Student: Elisabeth Hösli

Keywords: teaching-learning-arrangement; art analogy; art-oriented reflection; situated learning; didactic of facilitation; diversity competence; students mobility

The Art of Braidings ArtsCreating a Community Expressive Arts

This thesis explores the use of a community arts journal as a therapeutic tool in a harm reduction site, the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver, Canada. Clients in this setting face marginalization, including HIV/AIDS, mental health challenges, ongoing and previous traumas, poverty, and various forms of addictions. As I considered placing the arts journal in this environment, community arts and story became thematic interests. My method for the process of the journal project, as well as the presentation of my results, follows the praxis of métissage, which is represented as a metaphorical braiding technique. This method collects and highlights both the diversity of the participants involved and the simultaneous coming together of their many different resources. As well, métissage complements my own personal journey, through the community arts process, of acknowledging and exploring my identity as a Métis woman. Throughout the process of the journal project, I embodied many roles: Expressive Arts Therapist, collaborator, curator, and artist. The "braid" of the results supports that the community arts journal was effectively engaging with this population. Through the process of the journal project, themes arose that support the transformational ability of relationship building in combination with story as a creative process, as well as the necessity for Expressive Arts Therapy to adapt to the distinct needs of each individual client, in particular within the broader work of community arts. This thesis as a story in itself will summarize the impactful journey of beauty and discovery enabled through this project.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Sabine Silberberg

Student: Jessica Delorme

Keywords: hiv/aids, harm reduction, marginalization, addictions, first nations, indigenous, métis, métissage

The Beauty & the BeastExpressive Arts methods in organisational development

The application of Expressive Arts oriented methods (EXA) in Organizations differ
from individual coaching or therapy in Expressive Arts, this will be explained in more
detail in the present work. On the basis of several case studies the process of
planning, designing and implementation of an EXA intervention for an audience that
work in an organisational context will be illustrated.

The whole process is divided into so called consultation phases. The phases include
the kick-off-meeting, the design of the intervention and the discussion with the
stakeholders, the intervention (decentering) itself, as well as the transfer and the
evaluation of the EXA intervention. Each consulting phase will be described and
discussed in a phenomenological way. The theoretical exploration is embedded in
the theories that prevail in Expressive Arts, in particular the systemic-solution
focused and resource-oriented approach. However, as the Expressive Arts features a
body of theory that is heterogeneous, this work will connect to other relevant
theoretical references that are deemed important when consulting an organisation.
Thus the EXA consulting phases are discussed from additional theoretical viewpoints
that are far reaching such as the organizational theory and its subcategory of the
Economic Aesthetics, the theory of Constructivism as well as partial theories such as
the Hypno-Systemic approach and the Zurich Resource Model. With this thesis the
works of my clients shall also be recognized for without them all this would not have
been possible.

2014: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Peter Wanzenried

Student: Eszter Nyuli

Keywords: organisational theory, economic aesthetics, designing, interventions, decentering, consultation/project-phases, self organisation, resource orientation, solution focus, evaluation, transfer, case studies

The Birth of ImaginationAn Exploration of the Impact of Aesthetic Experience

This project explores the power of imagination in the creative process, how a meeting with the finished piece of work leads to imagination and what relevance can be accredited to working artistically with dreams.

Becoming aware of the dramaturgy of an artistic process and also following it is a phenomenological approach, which allows us to take what ‚shows itself' as a starting point. To look at the work in progress from a phenomenological point of view offers the possibility to discover connections to experience new content, which acknowledged in its essence, may lead to scientific findings.

The following questions stood at the beginning of this project: What is aesthetic awareness? What defines the power of the aesthetic experience? Where does imagination have its origin or when does it come into existence? What is the role of de-centering within the context of Expressive Arts Therapy and in relation to the condition of our dreaming? To an artist, all these questions apply on the basis of their epistemological background, even if they are endemic in various fields. I will therefore attempt firstly to allocate the collected questions to their respective subject areas and secondly, as through a persona in a directed piece of dramaturgy, try to get them to ‚speak for themselves' and try to be able to ‚hear through them'. I start with the art-philosophical world of thought and attempt to lead it through aesthetic awareness and imagination to the subconscious world of dreams.

2014: Master Thesis (German)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Peter Sinapius

Student: Regula von Euw

Keywords: power of imagination, dreams

The Bridge

This thesis explores the first bridge between the worlds of reality and imagination. Inspired by a self-exploration of the author's own bridge through painting, movement, creative writing and drawing on the concept of play as a core element of the therapeutic relationship, this thesis intends to delve into the conditions that facilitate access to an alternative world experience. The author narrates how his own journey helps him create and put into practice a board game named "The Bridge" meant to engage client's imagination and facilitate the bridging process. In addition, this thesis offers a brief illustration of the use of "The Bridge" on working with culturally-diverse survivors of complex trauma at the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST). Finally, the author expands his inquiry into the bridging process through photography and poetry.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Wayne Sutherland

Student: Matias Hacker

Keywords: first bridge, bridging process, imagination, reality, alternative world experience, play

The SongStream ProjectBuilding Empathy and Communities at the Intersections of Story and Song

The following report contains the results of a three-month pilot study which explores the relationship of story and song to empathy and community building via The SongStream Process. It was conducted within a culturally diverse community in San Diego, California and expanded to reach greater audiences via a community art listening event and social media podcast outlets. An array of qualitative methodologies were used including: ethnography/ethnomusicology, narrative inquiry, qualitative portraiture and arts-based heuristic inquiry. A variety of discoveries are discussed as they relate to the ethnomusicological aspects of lullabies, music and story evoked nostalgia, the art of listening and witnessing, empathy, communitas, and resilience. Implications from the results of the findings are considered and applied to the credible longer-range impact the SongStream Process could have in nurturing the sustainable salutogenic conditions that promote health and positive peace within communities.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Wes Chester

Student: Talia Morales

Keywords: oral history, lullabies, communitas, empathy, resilience, salutogenesis

The Use of Imagination in Expressive Arts Therapy: How Imagination Affects Our Reality and the Way We Interact with the World

This thesis attempts to address the concept of imagination from a phenomenological perspective. What is imagination? What are the different sides of it? How does it affect what we perceive as reality and the choices we make in the world? How is it used in Expressive Arts Therapy? What can we learn about imagination from real life case studies from work we've been doing in the world? All of this and more is presented in this phenomenological inquiry into imagination.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Barbara Hielscher-Witte

Student: Anna Finkelstein

Keywords: imagination, reality, psychology, expressive arts therapy, case study, phenomenology, creativity

TransformationHow do I find my heart with art?

This thesis utilizes the author's personal experience and practices, using a diary as a method for collecting information. Exploring her self-image as a mother and therapist through the evolving contexts of family and friends, the children she works with and the countries she lives in.

What is it like to have 'high sensitivity'? Her practice ,with children and adults, illustrates how expressive art, as applied to people with low skill - high sensitivity, in conjunction with intermodal methodology contributes to the development of a new way of expression.

The emerging themes, developed through her own artistic exploration, supported and illustrated by her investigation. Her self-portrait and her journey, exploring 'her' forest, are fundamental aspect of her self-discovery.

Discovering different levels of herself through the materials she is using as a medium of expression, a language: canvas, mirrors, music, movement and poetry.

The formula using Intermodality, the aesthetic dialogs and EXA theory were a strong base to sustain her investigation, revealing as strong aspect, the importance of belonging to a community, as well as the importance of performance and a ritual of passage.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Barbara Hielscher-Witte

Student: Aurélie Beer

Keywords: imagination, transformation

Where is Home?

This work investigated the process of constructing a ''Sense of belonging" among immigrant children through their projective home drawings. Concept of 'Object relations' were presented in order to explain the emotional process that immigrants experience when separating from their homeland. The emotional bond that the immigrant has to his homeland is a metaphors to the bond the child has to his mother. Home drawings of eight kids, four immigrants and for locals who were born in Geneva were collected and analyzed. In addition, an interview was conducted with each kid and his/ her impressions were documented. The differences, similarities and the construction of 'Sense of belonging' through time were examined. It suggest, that immigrant children could significantly benefit from Expressive Arts therapy sessions that combines projective home drawings with other forms of communications.

2014: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Barbara Hielscher

Student: Yasmin Perez

Keywords: immigrant children home drawings versus home drawings of local children

Zeitlose Momente

As Timeless Moments I define moments, where time stands still, slows down, speeds up, gets forgotten. These moments touch, fulfill and connect. The following master thesis researches their approaches, obstacles, variety and effects using different theoretical perspectives. Additionally the ways they can support processes of the Expressive Arts Therapy are presented. Our perception of time, use of therapeutic settings and techniques, inner attitudes and possibilities for thoughts and presence are lit up. My work with adults from an art group, with elderly from a nursing home and my own art are being incorporated. The results show, that Timeless Moments can be favored by frames of the Expressive Arts Therapy and inner attitudes such as presence, regard and trust. They presuppose openness, serve receptivity and connection and animate self-organization. Timeless Moments can therefore be used as a source of ressources for change and developement in and outside the therapeutic context.

2014: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Peter und Brigitte Wanzenried

Student: Manuela Baer

Keywords: timeless moments