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AHS Research Overview 2019

A Mirror Held Up: Can Feedback to a Client in an Art Form Enhance the Therapeutic Relationship?

The harvesting portion of an expressive arts session can be enriched by adding another part, namely aesthetic feedback, and an aesthetic feedback as a form of documentation can be used as a way of knowing. This thesis seeks to incorporate a new method of documentation in which the therapist performs an aesthetic feedback in response to the harvest phase of a session.

This is a research guided by aesthetic features such as the emotional reactions that could emerge in the process and by how the involved participants may be touched by the exchange of an aesthetic feedback during a therapy session. The author attempts a better understanding of this study by evaluating and examining at first hand three case studies in which the result of the implementation of the aesthetic feedback was used as a documentation resource.
The research seeks to answer the question: Can feedback to a client in an art form enhance the therapeutic relationship? As a qualitative and arts-based research, the focus was to enlarge the human understanding through an art making process or by the product that may come up from the process and gain multiple perspectives. In this sense, the author transformed data into art, observed and learned from the process, used the images as stimuli eliciting a response and then collected all the responses.

It is hoped this research will inform therapists and expressive arts practitioners about the benefits of including an aesthetic feedback as a documentation resource and illustrate how art can be used as data and as a form of documentation. 

2019: Master Thesis (English)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Ellen Levine

Student: Daniela Garcia Prieto
E-Mail

Keywords: aesthetic feedback, aesthetic response, aesthetic responsibility, aesthetic relationship, documentation, expressive arts therapy, therapy

A Resource-Oriented Intervention: Working with Children with Disabilities and Their Parents in Expressive Arts Therapy

The reader is taken into the world of the work and play of an Expressive Arts Therapist, to explore resource-oriented intervention within Expressive Arts Therapy. Starting with my autobiography, I share why I am passionate about working with my clients and how I arrived at this topic, through disclosing my own identity and relationship with my family, on my journey of becoming a phenomenological Expressive Arts Psychotherapist. A mixed method of using case studies and art-based research is used to analyze four target groups, including families of children with disabilities, a group of children with special needs, parents of people with disabilities, and a child with autism and intellectual impairment. Research results suggest that having a supportive therapeutic relationship, and a safe architecture of the therapy session, are crucial when facilitating clients to discover their own inner resources, which motivates them to make changes in life. Along the journey, I am led to develop a new tea-making metaphor for resource-oriented Expressive Arts Therapy. 

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Markus Scott Alexander

Student: Venus Wing Lui Yiu
E-Mail

Keywords: autism, expressive arts therapy, family, inner resources, mixed methodology, play, parent and child relationship, people with disability, resource-oriented, richo’s five a’s, safety, therapeutic relationship

Artful Awareness: Towards a Spiritual Practice of Mindfulness and Attunement in Expressive Arts Therapy

This thesis explores the role of expressive arts therapy in cultivating mindfulness and attunement. Inspired by my own experience with expressive arts therapy, I sought to explore the potential of the expressive arts with others who had spiritually based mindfulness practices. In the course of the thesis I explore the roots and principles of mindfulness and attunement, including their developmental and neurobiological factors. I strategize the application of mindfulness and attunement through expressive arts based practices at a remote residential retreat. Intermodal sessions included contemplative photography, textural sensing, nature theatre, creating with clay, musical musings, painting with presence, dance of the elements, group painting, and finally, fairy tales in the forest. The results establish that expressive arts is a means to become more mindful, more attuned, and more open for both clients and facilitators.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Richard Wainwright & Roberta Rasmussen-Merz

Student: Michelle Grace
E-Mail

Keywords: mindfulness, attunement, becoming, vulnerability, self-discovery, self-care, flow, non-attachment, the emergent, surrender, group process

Deep Play - Die Erfahrung von Flow durch intermodales, freies Spiel

Deep Play describes a form of decentering which is non-directive and rooted in intermodal, free play. Deep Play is connected to the concept of flow by Mihaly CSIKSZENTMIHALYI (1990). In accordance with the characterization of flow moments, experiences were described as inherent a quality of deep play when 1. the participant felt equal to the task. 2. the participant could concentrate. 3. Focus on a reasonable, clear goal. 4. the participant can effortlessly surrender to the current activity. The dedication to the game process is the prerequisite for the experience to become deeper and more intense. 5. there is a sense of control over one's own activities 6. the sense of time changes. Often, in the flow moment of deep play, the passing of time is experienced as being faster, or the deep play moment is described as out of time. 7. It succeeds in putting yourself in a role and if the person participating in the play shop can stay in the role. 8. in the play experience, a seriousness can be achieved in which children normally play. 9. there is a sense of security to the person participating in the playshop. In three consecutive workshops (called playshops) participants had the chance to experience Deep Play. With the methods of participatory observation, art-based research and interviews the evaluation in this research showed, that Deep Play is helpful to strengthen the autotelic parts of the personality and therefore is a useful tool to support the development of a healthy self.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Barbara Hielscher

Student: David Widmer
E-Mail

Keywords: play, intermodal, flow, decenter, non-directive, deep play, autotelic personality, participatory observation, art-based research

DUYAN Bridging Healing and Learning through the Expressive Arts: Transforming Classrooms in Disaster Contexts into Healing Spaces

This dissertation explores how the expressive arts can bridge healing and learning to transform classrooms into healing spaces in disaster-affected contexts. More specifically, it examines how the training of teachers to integrate the expressive arts into their classrooms helps student survivors in their recovery, and serves as a cradle (duyan in Filipino) to educators during their own process of healing. With the evaluative case study, autoethnography and A/R/Tography as methodologies, this paper is substantiated by eight core stories about expressive arts psychosocial training workshops conducted for teachers around the world. Three words that surfaced from images which emerged from the narratives, are core to the study: crumpled, cradled and (being) capable. Crumpling is presented as it relates to trauma, cradling as it relates to attachment and attunement, and being capable as it relates to self-agency. The central discussion on cradling offers the beginnings of a theory of the expressive arts as a point of convergence for education and mental health. This is reinforced by data from the field, research from eastern healing practices, neuroscience, and neuroaesthetics through an interlacing of artistic and scientific perspectives. The paper concludes with the author’s detailed description of the arts-based research process and its consequent findings.

2019: Ph.D. Dissertation (English)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Sally Atkins

Student: Maria Regina Abella Alfonso
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Keywords: bridging healing and learning though the expressive arts, expressive arts a cradle, the expressive arts in disaster context schools

Dynamical and embodied model of Expressive Arts practice: working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder

The introduction of dynamical systems theory forms a metaphorical analysis that constitutes the foundation of this inquiry. Building on the conceptual foundation, the sensory and experiential character of expressive arts practice receives further attention in Part II. The discussion of the intimate relationship between cognition, morphology, and emotion demonstrates the saliency of such characters in relation to individuals and emphasizes the pivotal role they play in therapeutic intervention. Part III focuses on insights derived from phenomenology, a 20th century philosophical movement emphasizing the experiential character of existence. The works of a number of scholars is analyzed as an effort to accentuate the philosophical orientation of expressive arts practice. Part IV of the thesis reflects on certain aspects of art making and its therapeutic relevance. The thesis concludes with several clinical vignettes in order to highlight the implication of expressive arts practice being nested within a transdisciplinary network.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Barbara Hielscher-Witte

Student: Joey Sheung
E-Mail

Keywords: dynamical systems, embodied cognition, phenomenology, autism, thelen, greenspan, buber, husserl

Enacting Perception

The use of movement in Expressive Arts practices can be especially effective when the practice facilitates the widest possible range of movement options.  Facilitation techniques that moderate the contradictions that emerge in movement improvisation can enable a wider range of play by increasing capacity for movement invention.  To understand capacity, we must understand the barriers that interfere with achieving capacity.  Therefore, this research first explores the question: What are the factors that mediate facility in movement improvisation in Expressive Arts practices?    This research explores these mediating issues with interest in identifying moderating options. The second question tackled in this research is: How might a methodology focused on attending to specific aspects of an art work's expression moderate movement facility to expand a participant’s range of play? The proposed methodology promotes enactive attunement, creating a bridge between what is perceived and how that perception might be embodied.  A partially field-tested resource with potential to guide users to aspect-specific attention in aesthetic responding is offered as a way to dissolve barriers and enhance options in movement-based inquiry. 

2019: Ph.D. Dissertation (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Judith Greer Essex

Student: Constance Schrader
E-Mail

Keywords: movement-based inquiry, dance, expression, improvisation, art, aspect, facilitation

Evocation • Exploration • Exaltation: How can the expressive arts evoke the spirit of inner child from exploration to exaltation?

How can the Expressive Arts evoke one’s spirit of the ‘inner child’, from the exploration of art-making to the experience of ‘exaltation’? How might this process help us to discover and restore our inner resources? Does every one of us have an ‘artistic child’, an-inborn sense of playing in the arts? This topic was inspired by an Expressive Arts Therapy Masters practicum project in Hong Kong, called “Smart Kids and Elderly Community Arts Project”. Being with the kids, I witnessed their powerful innate resources of creativity, courage, curiosity, sense of wonder, playfulness and joyfulness and how their influence on the elderly to become energetic and alive. When an elderly man with dementia engages with play in something he loves, his serious face changes to a naughty one, and he is able to laugh like a kid. This thesis explores my fascination with what is behind this phenomenon.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Ka Kit Lai

Student: Wai Yee Wong
E-Mail

Keywords: expressive arts, inner child, inner resources

How does Expressive Arts Therapy enhance the understanding of young adult in Hong Kong’s shifting IDENTITY

Shaun McNiff (1998) told his student to discover “the thesis you are living and cannot see”. Hong Kong is my home and my root, where I born in, I grew up in, I learnt in, and I committed in. This lovely place nurtures me, teaches me what is justice, and demonstrates me what is adherence. This is my IDENTITY as a Hongkonger. I keen on explore this attitude and belief with the next generation, to whom I am unswervingly enthusiastic to work with. This thesis relates to apply Expressive Arts Therapy to the young adults in Hong Kong, exploring the idea of identity. And it ends with foreseeing the contribution of Expressive Arts Therapy to the community, in order to generate a sense of shift.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Ka Kit Lai

Student: Wik Chi Nicholas Wong
E-Mail

Keywords: decentering, play range, tansitional space, identity, beliefs, hong kong

Material Oriented Expressive Arts Therapy- An exploration of Using Material to bridge between Arts and Autism Adults in Hong Kong

This study endeavored to investigate how material could help “autism adults” in Hong Kong to bridge the existing world through expressive arts therapy. The researcher had conducted a 1 year of 46 sessions expressive arts research group from sheltered workshop of the local Hong Kong non-profit making organization, NLPRA. The 1 year research group was designed into four phases from individual, group, friendship, family and gratitude and vocational respectively. Narrative and phenomenological approach was the main methodology for conducting six case studies on their journey of art transformation. The study concluded that material helped the autism adult to open up their sensory organs and they would “free” from their rigidity as they could expand their play range. Material also helped clients to have deeper exploration of imagination from sensitization and the material itself could help clients to engage and transform imagination into realism. The researcher used the “bridge” to describe material as the channel to come across different art modalities and senses under polyaesthetics theory and modalities of imagination.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Kai Kit Lai

Student: Chi Hung Clifford Lee
E-Mail

Keywords: material, modalities of imagination, polyaesthetics theory

Minds,Hearts and Arts: Uniting the Expressive Arts and Education

 I exam in the intersection of expressive arts therapy and education through the lens of a/r/t/tography, simultaneously embodying the roles of artist/researcher/teacher and therapist. This thesis examines a shifting landscape of education, and the role that the expressive arts can play in supporting the development of the whole child: as thinkers, communicators, social and emotional beings, and contributing members of society. In attempting to unite and work within these two frames I came to the question: When poiesis is placed at the center of pedagogy, how does the low skill/high sensitivity and resource-oriented nature of expressive arts theory lead to a child’s increased awareness of self, others in their community, and learning?

2019: Master Thesis (English)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Richard Wainwright & Roberta Rasmussen-Merz

Student: Brenna Willis
E-Mail

Keywords: poiesis, resource-orientation, low skill/high sensitivity, education, social and emotional learning, a/r/tography

Nurturing Our Natural Nature: A Holistic Approach to Mental Health Care Through Expressive Arts Therapy Inspired by Nature

This research highlights the benefit and potential of integrating arts-based and nature-informed interventions from an expressive arts therapy approach into formal hospital and health care settings. I used a group approach with 10 female participants, with a focus on addressing health and wellness concerns. The study explored and documented changes in two well-being-indicator measures over six consecutive weeks in a hospital art studio. The objective was to facilitate enhanced health and well-being, understand the processes better, and measure the changes influenced by intermodal art-making inspired by nature. Guided by current theory and best practice understandings in expressive arts therapy, both phenomenological qualitative analysis and objective quantitative measurement were utilized. Results indicate a positive influence on the psycho-social well-being and spiritual aspects of the participants of an intermodal expressive arts and nature inspired therapy intervention.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
magna cum laude

Advisor: Dr. Markus Scott-Alexander

Student: Marlessa A Wesolowski
E-Mail

Keywords: holistic, expressive arts therapy, nature, health and wellness, mental health, health care delivery, community

Playing Freely with(in) Restrictions: Qualitative Research for the Reciprocal Therapeutic Triad Among Arts, Therapist’s & Client’s Dynamic Play Ranges

Without restriction, there is no creativity. Play, as the operator of imagination, also needs an optimal range so that one can play freely with(in) daily restrictions. This thesis aims to study the criteria contributing to human dynamic state of play range, Dynamic Play Range (DPR) in EXA therapeutic setting. On interpersonal level, the reciprocal interactions between clients’ and therapists’ respective DPRs would be studied using the framework of Reciprocal Therapeutic Triad (RTT), with arts as a play-ground, the third space containing both parties’ shared imaginal experience. Case study about therapeutic experiences with five individual clients would be carried out. A Play Range Inventory (PRI) is devised for clients and therapists to draw as an art-based evaluation. Personal reflections by the therapist, also the participatory researcher, would be analyzed together with the back-and-forth responses (aesthetically and verbally) between clients and therapists to ensure intersubjective validity. The study reveals the importance of optimal restrictions in therapeutic setting, especially the therapist’s and client’s willingness of self-restrictions that lead to a “harvestable” expansion of play range bridging with daily life, which also opens further research possibilities regarding the role shift and hierarchy of power among clients and therapists, as well as the implementation of PRI within the architecture of therapeutic session.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Ka Kit Lai

Student: Wai Ho, Chris Chow
E-Mail

Keywords: play-range, improvisation/de-center, therapeutic presence, restrictions, imprisonment, reciprocity, space of third

The Heroine's Journey: using expressive arts to support empowerment for women in recovery

This thesis explores how expressive art therapy (hereafter EXA) can increase empowerment and be helpful to women in recovery. I am looking at the concept ‘rite of passage’ described by Stephen Levine as “a time where familiar structures have been given up and a time of confusion moving towards a new life”. The research fieldwork of the thesis is a ten-week’s course/study done at the Casa Treatment Center in Los Angeles, which is a drug and substance abuse treatment center for women. The thesis explores 1) how the arts based self-research of the therapist support a better client therapist connection, 2) if looking at an expressive arts rite of passage support women’s journey towards empowerment and 3)   How the expressive arts methods of harvesting and dialogue with the image support the artists sense of empowerment.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Wes Chester

Student: Caecilie Carlsen
E-Mail

Keywords: women’s empowerment, recovery, expressive arts therapy

The Unknown Steps of Recovery

In this thesis, I explore how the expressive arts can help veterans recovering from addiction to cope with the unknown. I look at their fears, their past, and their future, by engaging in art making, ritual, and play, to see if we can find coping skills together to be able to substitute art for substance abuse. Through the Expressive Arts Therapy sessions and interviews, that I conducted with clients one-on-one, we look to see what tools and resources can be found to start living a healthier life.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Wes Chester

Student: Judith Drapkin
E-Mail

Keywords: veterans, recovery, addiction, coping, expressive arts therapy, unknown

Wild Hearts: An Exploration of Arts Practices with Women Changemakers

Abstract Caring for our communities and leading change can be overwhelming in our fast-paced “wired world.” Work is almost synonymous with a religious identity in America, but it is also a significant source of stress. Women changemakers are highly empathetic leaders who work relentlessly to help vulnerable people and find solutions to our communities’ most pressing needs. This puts them at risk of stress, burnout and empathy fatigue. The question of this project examined the ways in which expressive arts might be a resource for women changemakers including but not limited to artists, educators, social entrepreneurs and community leaders, i. e. women effecting positive changes in our communities and the world. This qualitative case study based on phenomenology investigates the experiences of six culturally diverse women changemakers in the U.S.’ Greater Washington DC Metro area through a 40-hour professional development training in expressive arts. This work revealed that art practices steeped in mindfulness can help women changemakers surrender control and develop more flexibility, experience a sense of belonging, and cultivate resilience. Women changemakers can draw on art practices for self-care, inspiration, insight and overall well-being. This work could benefit women leaders, activists and changemakers, and professionals who train leaders, educators, entrepreneurs and people in caring professions.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Michelle LeBaron

Student: Marga Fripp
E-Mail

Keywords: women changemakers, educators, community leaders, overcoming stress, burnout and empathy fatigue, surrendering control, belonging, resilience

Women's Selfcare and Healing Practices Through Textile Arts

This thesis examines the potential of textile arts as a medium for supporting women’s healing and self-care practices. The following explores the healing benefits of textile arts for individuals and groups, through the lens of psychotherapists, social workers, textile artists and expressive arts therapists. Findings suggest that textile arts have a great potential in alleviating anxiety, depression, stress, trauma symptoms, chronic physical pain and other mental health concerns. Furthermore, research shows that individuals and communities who practice with textiles often transition from private self-narratives into self-empowerment, and eventually into political action. This is demonstrated through an analysis of past and current social movements that have utilized textile arts for healing, empowerment and protesting. Finally, a textile arts program is provided with hands on activities for anyone interested in exploring the benefits of textile arts.

2019: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Carrie Mcleod

Student: Laura Maria Betancur
E-Mail

Keywords: women, textile arts, women and political activism, women's mental health, selfceare, women empowerment, anxiety, depression, women's issues, women's rights