top of page
AHS Research Overview 2012


The increase in personal and global interdependence, interconnectedness, and diversity is compelling individuals and organizations to make decisions in situations of escalating complexity and ambiguity. There is a need to find methods that allow individuals to make sense of complex problems without a straightforward way of proceeding. In this dissertation, this researcher focuses on expressive arts methods to facilitate sensemaking and decision-making in situations of high complexity and ambiguity. This qualitative research is an exploration of the questions: What can we learn from high-functioning people about the value of their artistic practices in helping them to make good decisions? and how can this knowledge be integrated with expressive arts coaching to help individuals and groups strengthen their own decision-making processes? To read the entire dissertation, visit:

2012: Dissertation PhD (English)

summa cum laude

Advisor: Stephen K. Levine, Ph.D. and Paul Antze, Ph.D.  


Student: Lorena Beatriz Fernandez




Appreciation finds you, when you are open for it. Appreciation is what our community should be based on because it bonds people like the concrete foundation of a house. Without appreciation, everything falls apart. Everyone is born with values such as love, helpfulness, creativity and spontaneity but they are all undeveloped. To cultivate them, you need courage every day.
For a long time I put myself down. I did not realize , that I am the person who judges, how valuable I am.
Appreciation is the fundament for working with clients and their process of artistic work. Positive statements are of great importance in this process. This allows the clients to let changes happen and develop potential
To meet people with cordial respect is an act of humanity to me and at the same time a big challenge. Appreciation is the power of our hearts.

2012: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Brigitte Wanzenried


Student: Cornelia Maria Hürlimann-Ruckli


Keywords: appreciation, fundament for working, act of humanity

Bedeutsame Kunst

9 Frauen erzählen von ihrem Kunstschaffen im Alltag

Is art able to give human beings meaning to their lives? The author researched this question. She visited nine women who engage in a process of art-making in their daily lives, using an art analogue approach. As her method she chose a procedure with a phenomenological quality by using the form of the narrative interview, by transcribing and finally writing up nine portraits. Of central significance during evaluation of the portraits was once again a precise and careful description of the object of research. The results demonstrate that doing art gives meaning to life concerning personal well-being, relationships, and the quality and shaping of life. Lastly, the author put the contents of her research into the context of an art oriented therapeutic work with people.

2012: Master Thesis (German)
magna cum laude


Advisor: Margo Fuchs Knill


Student: Rut Tschofen


Keywords: art as meaning

Bridging Narrative Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy

Transforming our Stories through the Arts

The purpose of this study is to explore how Narrative Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy converge. Seven converging concepts arise through study and poiesis and are then explored. A six session workshop is created to shape and study these concepts further. Story creation and felting are utilized in the group setting, and then the therapeutic qualities of felting wool, particularly, the sculpting capabilities are investigated. A phenomenological approach is utilized to observe both the participants and the leader's process. In-between the sessions, therapeutic letters and reflective writing are utilized. Felted vessels combined with other expressive arts activities emerge as effective ways to shape and express stories. Bridging the therapies offers some exciting possibilities for enhancing the attention to body, creative process, and story in therapy.

2012: Master Thesis (English)
magna cum laude


Advisor: Ellen G. Levine


Student: Karen Daniels


Keywords: story creation, felting wool, therapeutic letters, reflective writing

Expressive Arts Widen Taiwanese Junior High School Students’ Perspectives on Difficulties, Based on the Principle of Expressive Arts Therapy

Adopting a phenomenological heuristic method, this research work started with the researcher's examination of using expressive arts in her inner journey of self exploration. Following the author's self investigation, the effectiveness of expressive arts widening Taiwanese junior high school students' perspectives on difficulties was examined in this research.

Based on the theory and principle of expressive arts therapy, the expressive arts project of focusing on a process of creation and responding was given to 8th graders via a 10-week expressive arts curriculum and a 6-people group session in the north of Taiwan.

Participants' feedback regarding the expressive arts project were elicited during the semesters of the 8th grade. Results of the study were based upon analyses of 4 data sources: Participants' artworks and writing materials, participants' feedback, the researcher's own artistic expressions, and observation of the researcher.

It was found that expressive arts helped students to feel that they experienced a great emotional relief and a deep increase of self-understanding. The actual engagement in the image-making and responding process widened students' perspectives on difficulties, and energized them to put it into practice in daily life. The results were reflected in their improvement in interpersonal interaction and academic achievements.

2012: Master Thesis (English)
magna cum laude


Advisor: Ellen G. Levine


Student: Karen Daniels


Keywords: story creation, felting wool, therapeutic letters, reflective writing

Expressive Arts, Mass Violence & Grief

Mourning the Unspeakable in Sri Lanka

This thesis is about community healing in sites of mass violence. It concerns grief and mourning over unspeakable deaths and ungrievable deaths, meaning deaths about which there is an unknowableness. My exploration of therapeutic literature and theory focuses on actual occurrences of loss in which the circumstances of the death are unknown-regarding how and why the person died and in some cases even when and where the person died. This unknowableness is an overwhelming burden upon survivors of war, but sometimes occurs in cases of sudden or accidental death. I link my individual story of loss and grief to the story of Sri Lanka's mass violence and the need for a process of mourning in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of our human need for embodiment in the face of extreme loss and heartbreak. The practical component of this thesis outlines a set of expressive arts workshops I conducted in Sri Lanka during the civil war that intentionally engaged the themes of violence, abuse, discrimination and imprisonment in order to bring form to indescribable (and often invisible) tragedy and promote sensitivity. In addition, this thesis contains interviews with four participants of the workshops three years following the project on how community-based expressive arts has impacted their lives.

2012: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Paul Antze


Student: Jennifer Dawn Lemanski


Keywords: sri lanka, community healing, loss, death, grief, mourning, heartbreak, abuse, discrimination, imprisonment

Hungry to crEATe: mission and method for integrating movement-based expressive arts into food systems education

Elementary students in the United States grow up lacking the basic opportunity to develop a healthy relationship to food. Additionally, students are not provided with in-school opportunities to learn through embodied modalities of the imagination. Through personal and cultural research and experimentation, Plattner explores how EXA can feed the preexisting methods of arts-integration and health education. This thesis introduces two original contributions to EXA: the Playte method which provides a map for teachers to facilitate theme-close decentering, and crEATe which is an EXA curriculum for food systems education. By experiencing a moving story of food through the lens of artistic mindfulness, individuals are encouraged to play with the idea that how and what they consume is a manifestation of their relationship to the world.

2012: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Rebekah Windmiller


Student: Daniela Plattner


Keywords: elementary school, healthy relationship to food, playte metod

Light Photo Performance

This year, writing this thesis, has helped me finish a sentence I started when I was six.
To better understand what I am about to ask in the thesis, my advisor suggested I write about my personal connection to photography. I started by writing about a painting that caught my eye when I was six, and continued with developing my own photographing practice. The question became: Can Light Photo Performance be a tool in Expressive Art Therapy?
Light Photo Performance is a method for creating a self portrait, which involves performing still in a dark space while being lit with torches. Building a frame for the sessions and understanding the technical and artistic challenges was a big part of the work.
Five people have gone through Light Photo Performance sessions. With music in the background and different fabrics as there material they entered the space and let their image emerge.
They shared with me their impressions of the experience. I looked at my own experiences and at ones of artists that have explored their own self in their work. Some beautiful art was made. The method got its first roots and I know now how my next sentence starts.

2012: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Brigitte Wanzenried


Student: Daphna Haya Saker



Keywords: photography, light photo performance, self portrait

Making the Bridge Between

Decentering in a Highly Regulated, Corporate, Science-based Environment

This thesis explores how decentering with teams, in a mechanistic, highly volatile, regulated environment, can restore a balance to support staying healthy. The balance can arise by opening to fairplay; equality in encounter, within oneself and with others. Fairplay is made possible, in decentering, by creating the bridge to the domain of the soul or right brain oneness, and becomes an antidote to the dominant 'either/or' aesthetics. The architecture of a session proves key to bridging and balancing our left and right brains to give a new perspective of 'both', connecting the beauty and magic of the imagination and the manageability of the limited, to cocreate. I show that the team members experience responsiveness and connection - vital contributors to health, new perspectives and 'awakeness.' I show my journey to become a bridge for this process, a bridging process.

2012: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Markus Alexander


Student: Maureen Murphy



Keywords: decentering with teams, fairplay, co-creation

Self-inquiry through the lens of Expressive Arts Therapy

This thesis explores the ramifications of self-inquiry through the lens of expressive arts therapy. Theories of subjectivity were reviewed in relation to an artistic stance, and ideas from Lacan and Winnicott were drawn heavily upon. The notion of a stable, knowable, and finite self-concept was challenged, while mysterious, and fragmented aspects of self-experience were embraced. A ten-session workshop was offered focusing on creative self-investigation, and the self-signifiers of face, language, and gesture were emphasized. Gibberish, face-paint, poetry, and mask work were areas of special interest. Phenomenological, heuristic, and art-based protocols were used to guide the research process.
Artistic expression was found to emphasize an inward-out mode of being, suspending pre-established ideas around self and self-nature. New self-discoveries were made. Emergent, lost, or unexpressed self-aspects were called forth and embodied.
Experiences ranged from loss of self-awareness to self-clarification. Self-criticism and self-judgment relaxed, and feedback obtained through art was surprisingly touching, insightful and expansive. For some members, self-definition took shape through action, in the form of verbs. As one co-researcher moved from self-description in nouns to that of verbs, a relational stance became prominent. Another co-researcher was faced with the death of a loved one, and the arts offered a sense of self-enlivening in the midst of trauma. The question who am I? could not be definitively answered through art. But the arts were found to be powerful allies in asking the question – in questing toward selfdiscovery.

2012: Master Thesis (English)

magna cum laude


Advisor: Kali Dukowski


Student: Jennifer Bain


Keywords: self-inquiry, creative self-investigation, self-discovery, lacan, winnicott

The Family Monument

We arrived on this earth as part of the ongoing process of human procreation. The idea that we pass ourselves down from generation to generation is fascinating to me. I want to know and understand more about our true human inheritance and how it works. How are we able to receive what our ancestors ‘give’ to us? In this thesis I explore the meanings that are inherent in the experience of feeling connected to our ancestors. I will see if it is possible for me to feel connected to my ancestors and then see what meaning(s) I can make out of that feeling of connectedness. I use a practice Expressive Arts Therapy to investigate these ideas. Using the concept that by creating or making something, we will contact an authentic part of ourselves that has not been tainted or trained by our environment or our culture. Therefore, we find a momentary glimmer that removes us of our grief, woes, or difficulties and opens the door to something spontaneous and unpredictable. We can learn a great deal from an unsuspected surprise. I have explored the topic of ancestor connection in a heuristic way, meaning that I used myself as the object of study and created space to play creatively and follow my own guidance and true nature. I started by making a ‘family tree’ by creating artwork. From there I branched out (pun intended) into an organic creation process that resulted in a complete journey. By finding a natural rhythm for myself and for the work, I hoped to gain insight around finding ways to connect to our ancestors and what significance it can have for us. Is it time for us to pay more attention to the ones who came before?

2012: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Kali Dukowski


Student: Sara Dickhout


Keywords: human procreation, human inheritance, ancestors, unsuspected surprise, family tree, artwork

The importance of Love in EXA and Trauma healing. A journey of puppet theater and story telling.

The times in which we live; what is trauma in the modern world and can Expressive arts therapy be a way forward from here? How play, story telling and puppetry are related to Trauma therapy in the EXA universe? What is the secret ingredient that makes this work so profoundly powerful? What research already has been written about on this subject? How can we improve our sea of knowledge through this tinny drop of information presented in the following thesis? Can a man become freer from his pain through the EXA work we do together? What may the future hold for PTSD victims and how does the usage of Expressive Arts as a method can help ease the suffering of trauma? The power of Story telling for Trauma victims has been explored and together with the explored puppet theater for traumatized children, we learned how these tie together almost like a gift, wrapped for adults that have survived near death experiences, in particular Veterans. Understanding PTSD and Trauma as pathology and the relevant literature that has already been studied about this subject will be interesting for the benefit of understanding the patient in question and of course the relationship to this EXA research paper. Personally, particularly interesting, in this case is how Puppet Theater can be a helpful tool for victims of Trauma and PTSD.

2012: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude

Advisor: Brigitte Wanzenried


Student: Sarah Reifschneider



Keywords: trauma, ptsd, healing, story telling, theater, therapy, love, victims, war, playfulness, mindfulness, authenticity

Touch in Expressive Arts Therapy

Rhymes and Fingerplay With Children With Developmental Delays and Dual Diagnosis

The use of touch in expressive arts therapy sessions with children and youth who have developmental delays and dual diagnosis is explored in this paper. Song, rhyme, and movement are described as containers for interpersonal touch. The importance of touch and the effects of touch deprivation on development are explored, and an outline of different types of touch are examined as well as how they relate in expressive arts therapy. A number of different cases are offered as examples of ways to work with children on the autism spectrum or who are survivors of trauma. This paper explores ways to use song, rhyme, and movement as a conduit to connect with clients through touch.

2012: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Rowesa Gordon


Student: Michel Kristensen


Keywords: use of touch, children and youth, developmental delays, dual diagnosis

Was, wenn nicht Kunst?

Kunstinspiriertes Schaffen als Basis für persönliche, therapeutische und künstlerische Entwicklungsprozesse

What, if not Art?
Art inspired creating as foundation for personal, therapeutic and artistic developmental processes. This Master-Thesis explores art as the foundation for art therapy and the expressive arts oriented coaching and consulting method, and particularly the involvement of existing art works as a possible initial situation. The receptive, meaning the perceptive approach to art opens up a precious and process driven path towards personal and artistic development and evolvement.
In my own daily work as an art therapist, as well as in my workshops, which I explore and reflect on in this thesis, the potential of this far reaching resource and the positive effect of this work is confirmed again and again. That’s why this paper is also a homage to the arts. The arts are a vital fountain which more than just refreshes: it deeply invigorates, may provoke unpleasantly, awakens and inspires manifold in its way-forming and future-oriented manner. Art is the home of humankind. Art uplifts people, leads people back to themselves and helps them re-find self confidence as well as high spirits: in this work I show how we can apply this beneficial healing power in so many ways. May inspiration flourish!

2012: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Brigitte Wanzenried


Student: Andrea Jrène Ritter-Bislin


Keywords: artistic developmental processes, inspiration, alchemistic power of transformation, receptive art therapy, communication of art


Handlung und Wandlung

The turning point as a phenomenon is crystallised in this heuristic, observational and descriptive research. The author followed the question: has the turning point to do with handling? Fields of research were: Consolidated fndings in being an artist, professional experiences as an Early Intervention Therapist and practice in the painting studio of a psychiatric hospital. The marvel hand, handling and to handle as action and expression became an important meaning.
In the handling the turning point is hidden.
A collection of several aspects, a resource-oriented acting, art analogue approach and aesthetical analyses were taken as a solid basis. Motive of handling in fairy tales and observations in daily life completed the research.
The result shows that handling and conversion are closely related as key to the turning point.

2012: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Margo Fuchs Knill


Student: Pascale Rime


Keywords: turning point, handling, conversion

bottom of page