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AHS Research Overview 2013

A dance with hope

Beauty of the coming-to-be

This paper is inspired by arts-based work with those who are living with health challenges. The author aims to explore how the use of Expressive Arts activities may affect the presence and formation of hope, and to create a broader conceptual base for understanding the ways in which hope may be viewed and experienced by individuals.

My research utilizes heuristic, arts-based and phenomenological methods, and the data arises from artsbased sessions with seniors in a care facility who live with physical and cognitive health challenges. Descriptions of the one-to-one sessions are featured, highlighting the interwoven use of various materials and modalities, such as: music and movement, storytelling, painting, collage, clay work, and poetry. Emergent themes are articulated in relation to how they link to attitudes of hope, suggesting how Expressive Arts Therapy may be further utilized in healthcare settings; additionally, implications for further learning within the practice of Expressive Arts Therapy are identified.

Themes discussed include: the restoration and embodiment of possibility, the importance of relational connectedness with the therapist and significant others in giving voice to hope, the role of hope in discovering meaning, and the roles of beauty, play, liminality, and imagination in exploring attitudes that may offer insight in relation to hope.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Sabine Silberberg


Student: Karyn Davies


Keywords: health challenges, healthcare settings, hope, bauty, play, imagination

Art in Transition

How Expressive Arts can strengthen civil society in post-Soviet Moldova

This study is an exploratory research project that aims to examine the relation between an art-based project and the empowerment of Moldovan civil society through an Expressive Arts lens. Moldova is a transitional state, presenting many contradictions and a weak civil society, characteristic of most post-Soviet states and is thus the beneficiary of various development initiatives. This study evaluates the impact of an art-based project implemented in Moldova by an Italian NGO and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Through analyzing internal documents and semi-structured interviews with social workers, the project's administrators and local government representatives, this evaluation reflects the project's results and areas where improvement might be needed. It was challenging to establish a clear link between art-based projects and the empowerment of civil society given the retrospective nature of this work. Further research on art-based projects in post-Soviet states is needed to further understand and assess the impact of art-based projects on civil society in transitional regions.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Michelle LeBaron


Student: Giovanna Di Mauro


Keywords: empowerment civil society, moldova, ngo

Bridging Art-Making and Meaning Making in the Expressive Arts

How can verbal language create a bridge between art-making and meaning making? This inquiry examines my response to individual Expressive Arts sessions I facilitated with Aboriginal youth in Northern Canada, and to my journey with hysterectomy and cancer. Using phenomenological, heuristic, and arts-based research methods, I responded to my circumstances as they arose and shaped the emergent with verbal language. Four language bridges emerged in the context of my work with youth: storied art-making, naming the studio space, a spoken word poem, and individual letters to clients. These wordspans bridge art-making to issues including reconciliation between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Canadians, nature as a resource, Indigenous languages and oral culture, and the discourse of the field of expressive arts. Integrating the unexpected into the inquiry, I investigate story and poetry created in response to my health crisis. These language bridges echo those I found in the North, guiding me to find new meanings with which to live in the world.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Carrie MacLeod


Student: Stephanie Burchell



Keywords: language, bridge, art-making, meaning making, indigenous, youth, nature, story, therapeutic letters, reconciliation, northern canada, cancer

Exploring the Concept of Beauty as a Resource

An Arts-based exploration by Habib Ahmed Afsar

This arts-based research explores the concept of beauty as a resource, accessible to all to heal from issues, deal with challenges and grow as an individual and member of the community of all beings.

After a thorough literature search on aesthetics, a questionnaire was developed and administered to a purposive sample of diverse individuals, the objectives of which were to allow a contemplation of the concept of beauty and develop a normative definition of beauty. A basic definition was arrived upon and a list of key words generated. This list of "beautiful words" formed the basis of the art conducted over the next five months by the author and others. This consisted of visual art, poetry, prose, movement and film. At the end of this process, the art was organized into themes and the key moments in the process were identified. A contemplation of this led to the definition of beauty as the "unifying potential in all that exists".

Other important personal truths realized by the author include; (1) the potential of beauty exists in all, (2) beauty is not always beautiful, (3) beauty requires an open and attentive state to show itself, (4) beauty reveals, (5) beauty is a visceral phenomenon and (6) pain is an integral part of the experience of beauty. Based on this understanding the author has since developed and conducted several workshops that take an "aesthetic approach" to change, i.e. looking for beauty to guide our lives and work. He now uses this basic approach in all his work and that includes projects in health, community development, speace building and organizational management.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Wayne Sutherland


Student: Ahmed Afsar Habib


Keywords: concept of beauty

How can photography adults and youths be developed withing an expressive arts approach?

The purpose of this research is to show how photography can become a more integral part of intermodal therapeutic work with adults and children. Through my research I will show how photography, when used with other art forms, can bring healing and change to one's life.
This thesis presents the theory which supports this argument. In my study of EXA theory I have researched the underlying topics, imagination and phenomenology, as well as base subjects of the method, intermodality, shaping and the architecture of a session. My case studies consist of individual sessions with one adult and one child, and a two-day group workshop for adults. This practical work reveals the potential of photography when used in conjunction with other art forms, in healing and empowerment.

2013: Master Thesis (English)


Advisor: Ellen G. Levine


Student: Keshet Zur


Keywords: photography

How could Expressive Arts promote Personal Growth through Sensitisation?

This work describes the investigation on how the Expressive Arts could promote personal growth through sensitisation, achieved mainly by a personal art based Research. Awareness of individual relation with the surroundings was monitored through the using of painting, music, poetry, and movement. The various modalities used in each artistic stage were documented, as well as the personal impact resulting from the sensorial experiences. Frames enabled restriction in the creative process. The respective levels of difficulty and constraints were varied, observing any adjustments that occurred invoking any shift of perception.

The artistic inquiry was extended through the documentation of a group intervention with adults in mental health through the use of poetry, painting and music in a community setting.

2013: Master Thesis (English)


Advisor: Wayne Sutherland


Student: Rainer Alan Rolle


Keywords: personal growth, sensorial experiences, frames

How does Metaphor Facilitate the Therapeutic Process in Expressive Arts Therapy?

This thesis utilizes the author's clinical practice to illustrate how metaphor facilitates the therapeutic process in Expressive Arts Therapy. First, the thesis gives a brief introduction to Expressive Arts Therapy, introducing four main elementary principals of EXA: Frame and Ritual, Intermodal Transfer, Decentering, and Low Skill/High Sensitivity. The applied practice gives a foundation for later discourse - the correlation between EXA and metaphor, and how metaphor facilitates therapeutic process. Then, with the illustration of the author's clinical practice with diverse target groups, it discovers the validity of the therapeutic power of metaphor and demonstrates that the client-generated metaphor enables therapists to access and employ the client's own insight to stimulate positive growth and change. Finally, the author's own personal art practice demonstrates theories of metaphor. The author looks within herself and her own life experiences to discover how Expressive Arts Therapy works for her and indicates therapeutic metaphors are all around.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Markus Alexander


Student: Leung Wai Yu


Keywords: metaphor, frame, ritual, intermodal transfer, decenterin, low skill high sensitivity

IMAGINATION eine Annäherung

Because of its spiritual and hence fleeting nature, Imagination is difficult to comprehend. None the less, it is a permanent feature of our inner reality. We experience it with singular force in the fine arts, literature, the theatre as well as in all other arts. How exactly does imagination affect an artist's creative pursuits, and, in particular, in applications of the low skill - high sensitivity method of Intermedial Art Therapy?

These questions were addressed in an art related experiment with eight subjects during two sessions. The resulting art work was examined phenomenologically in an aesthetic analysis and then reflected with the help of content-related questions. The recorded and sketched data enabled conclusions and speculations about the phenomenon of Imagination. The study has shown how during, after and in the artist's pursuits Imagination finds expression and is revealed in the various artistic media: sculpture, installations, language, and painting; and also what serves the imagination.

2013: Master Thesis (German)

Advisor: Margo Fuchs Knill


Student: Corina Girell di Giovanoe


Keywords: imagination, low skills high sensitivity

Machines of Loving GraceExpressive Arts Practice within Digital Workshop Environments

How do we deepen Expressive Arts practices in the context of a modern day digital age? The relationship between emerging technologies and our work as EXA facilitators is supported by the philosophical roots upon which the foundation of the field was built - in regards to the process of shaping and unconcealment, as well as intermodal theory and how it aligns with the interdisciplinary nature of digital media.

By way of arts based, phenomenological, and heuristic research methods, this inquiry explores what happens when Expressive Arts practices are integrated into digital workshop settings. Through an investigation of pertinent themes revealed during the research process, we take a step closer to understanding the challenges that are currently significant in the field of Expressive Arts in a consideration of our being-in-the-world today - as they interplay with the digital realm. The findings reveal compelling aspects of this confluence, specifically in regards to notions of play and sensitization in accordance with the role of the guide and the participant's relationship with their environment, the materials, the art work and each other.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Sabine Silberberg


Student: Lori Kamee Abrahamian


Keywords: digital media, digital workshops, play, sensitization

Peacebuilding, Accountability, and the Arts

Contributions of the arts to peacebuilding evaluation

This study is an investigation into the use of the arts in peacebuilding evaluation. In recent years, peace practitioners, academics, artists, and organizations have begun to use arts-based tools to look at the quality and impact of peacebuilding work. My purpose was to gather information on how the arts – in different ways and forms – have been used in peacebuilding evaluation, and to collect reflections and lessons learned from those who have applied the arts in these contexts. Primary research consisted of semi-structured interviews with six professionals, each of whom had had direct experience using the arts in the evaluation and assessment of peacebuilding efforts. Qualitative and phenomenological methodology provided an in-depth look into what these individuals perceived to be the benefits, challenges, issues, and questions associated with using the arts as peacebuilding evaluation tools. My overall objective was to present usable information to those who wish to study and apply the arts in evaluating peacebuilding work.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Michelle LeBaron

Student: Amanda Brown

Keywords: peacebuilding evaluation

Stepping into the UnKnown

This work describes the investigation on how the Expressive Arts could romote personal growth through sensitisation, achieved mainly by a Personal Art based Research. Awareness of individual relation with the surroundings was monitored through the using of painting, music, poetry, and movement. The various modalities used in each artistic stage were documented, as well as the personal impact resulting from the sensorial experiences. Frames enabled restriction in the creative process. The respective levels of difficulty and constraints were varied, observing any adjustments that occurred invoking any shift of perception.

The Artistic inquiry was extended through the documentation of a group intervention with adults in mental health through the use of poetry, painting and music in a community setting.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Markus Alexander


Student: Claudette F. Perron


Keywords: personal growth, mental health

Stepping into the unknown

An Expressive Arts Odyssey

This thesis focuses on the odyssey of a traveller toward the discovery of Expressive Arts Therapy from a phenomenological perspective derived from historical times of pivotal evolutions in philosophical traditions. It is the story of an authentic willingness to enter the world of one’s imagination. A narrative process of the soul’s desire for freedom of being. The therapist enters the scene as the traveller gradually builds its capacity to listen to its own voice and speak its language. A memory book of the traveller, women, men and children facing life.

challenges in the process to engage and facilitate human growth and development. It maps the belief of an innate ability to allow the arts to be a true companion during a voyage full of unknown and fears. It truly establishes a subtle and compassionate movement of the heart, the natural beat of body and soul as they connect with one’s essence in the world.

It is a painting of love, wonder and beauty.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Markus Alexander


Student: Claudette Perron



Keywords: historical, freedom of being, human growth, development, natural beat of body

The Art of Loss

This thesis is about how the Expressive arts can be an important part of the healing process of grief and how it can connect the personal to communal grief.

2013: Master Thesis (English)
cum laude


Advisor: Richard Wainwright


Student: Ruby Cone


Keywords: expressive arts therapy as a bridge from grieving in isolation to community connection

Therapist and Client as playmates

A Case Study in the Realm of the Horse

Can we view therapist and client as co-players in the therapeutic playground? What is the effect of the therapist stepping into the play as an equal player without hierarchy? What are the materials of play? How does play affect the experiential qualities of time and space of the players? This thesis demonstrates the benefits of expressive arts therapy in the case of a Russian girl who was adopted by an American mother, suffering from the consequences of early life in a Siberian orphanage. Following the images in the client's imaginal world, most significantly that of the horse, therapist and client created a relationship of mutual trust and an expanded play space. Playing together, therapist and client experienced freedom, power, and change, shifting our literal reality.

2013: Master Thesis (English)

Advisor: Judith Greer Essex


Student: Ofra Raz


Keywords: therapist and client as co-players

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