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AHS Research Overview 2024
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A Snail on its Way to Glory, a Sensory-based Exploration of Touching Clay in Expressive Arts

The spontaneous emergence of objects and forms when my hands encounter clay has been fascinating me. My thesis aims to display this way of entering artistic activity, when the focus is based on sensory perceptions. Touch is the preferred mode, and clay is the chosen medium I will use in the phase of art-making, called decentering in Expressive Arts. Exploring my sensations and expanding my capacity to sense into them, instead of using solely the power of imagination seem to me a relevant approach to working with the arts in this field. Touching and shaping clay led me to access a world of intense and rich sensations and opened me up to surprising discoveries. This thesis reveals the main aspects of my experience and uses research to follow multiple tracks and methods. One of these will be the description of my experience as it lends itself to my perception in decentering. The other is investigating an image, that of the snail who emerged spontaneously in the art-making, and who serves as a metaphor to discuss this approach. I follow its track using a combination of heuristic and art-based research methodologies. These have provided tools in better understanding the meaning and structure of the phenomenon that revealed itself. The results are an investigation and reflection on the experience of touching clay through the prism of my own experience.

2024: MA Thesis

Grade A


Advisor: Barbara Hielscher-Witte

Student: Charlotte Yolande Cattin

E-Mail

Keywords:  Sensations, Clay, Touch, Exploration, Art-making, Sensory-based Decentering

What are the processes of decentering and how do they apply in the Singaporean context?

This thesis explores the decentering experience in the Singaporean context. It looks at the author’s interest of entering an Expressive Arts training through personal experiences and observation of the arts by working with different individuals. It also looks at the definition of decentering as someone being able to enter an experience of working with the different modalities of the expressive arts with the aim being to try and experience these from different perspectives (Eberhart, 2012, 2017; P. J. Knill, 2005; Levine, 2015). The thesis will document the author’s personal experiences with decentering as well as the observed decentering experiences with the participants. It will look at potential macro factors that may have impacted the ease with which people experienced decentering (Bach & Christensen, 2021; Bedford & Chua, 2018, 2018; Cheng & Hong, 2017; Goransson, 2015; Ng et al., 2021; Quek, n.d.). Finally, working with the suggestions of the research participant in finding a medium that was concrete and familiar but also which allowed exploration and experiential adaptation (Eberhart, 2014; Hidajaturrokhmah et al., 2022; P. J. Knill, 2005, 2017a; Levine, 2015).

2024: MA Thesis

Grade A


Advisor: Barbara Hielscher-Witte

Student: Naixiang Hui

E-Mail

Keywords:  Singapore, decentering, play, ritual, work, low skill high sensitivity

The Forgiveness Door: are contemporary artistic rituals the answer to sustainable peace?

This book is an initiatory guide that delves into the philosophy of Expressive Arts Therapy as a path to embrace life as a pilgrim rather than as a mere tourist. This narrative centres on the profound theme of forgiveness, detailing how I harnessed the arts to transcend pain and how I rewrote myself a more empowered narrative to be in service of the exiled. The content of this book highlights the fading significance of rituals in our world, advocating for artistic rituals adapted to our modern lifestyles wherein the Soul tends to exile from our bodies. With a critical examination of some contemporary modern mental health systems and how it they have negatively impacted the human spirit throughout history: Creative Rituals serve us here as homecoming pilgrimages back to our centres. Throughout my organization Art For peace, I have been supporting individuals and vulnerable population and together we will dive into in the depth of how, more specifically, Expressive Arts Therapy empowered myself and the communities I am serving. This script contends that modern rituals, channelled through the arts, hold the potential to empower humanity, fostering deeper intimacy between individuals by awakening the innate sensitive nature within. This journey is an invitation to collectively embark on a pilgrimage, forging a path towards greater human connection.

2024: MA Thesis

Grade A


Advisor: Roseline De Thelin

Student: Agnès Aubert

E-Mail

Keywords:  Ritual forgiveness dream imagination refugees exit inner child modern contemporary peace sustainable ecology shamanism priestess origins of exa origins of rituals magic rituals

Daring To Create: Expressive Arts Therapy and Pregnancy Loss

This thesis explores how expressive arts therapy may support those who have experienced pregnancy loss. The question is inspired by personal experience with grief, loss and strength after a complicated miscarriage while studying and practising expressive arts therapy. This paper includes a three-part expressive arts therapy pregnancy loss support group for individuals, all identifying as women, who have had one or more pregnancy loss. The research found that expressive arts therapy has the capacity to support its clients on their journey after a loss through expressive communication and art-making, a community container, and ritual or rites of restoration. All participants felt the impacts of the group supported in the arts.

2024: MA Thesis

Grade A


Advisor: Heather Dawson

Student: Jessye Ashworth

E-Mail

Keywords: pregnancy loss, miscarriage, expressive arts therapy, ritual, rites of restoration, diet and medicine, decentering, grief, trauma, language

Invisible Warriors: Aesthetic encounters on a forensic ward

Invisible Warriors is an arts-based narrative multi-case study, that unravels four forensic psychiatric patients’ trans-personal arts experiences inside a state hospital in New York. By presenting through an autoethnographic style, the researcher takes readers to the interior of a state hospital, recounting her first encounters with the state hospital population and her intrinsic process of getting to know the protagonists featured in the study. The tinkuy theory (Calderon, 2015) becomes the central axis of this dissertation: all the encounters are brought to life by the idea of interpersonal/intergroup learning and integrating. The main body of the research focuses on shaping four art-as-testimony (Meyer DeMott, 2007) case narratives where every spoken word and drawn imagery are constructed to demonstrate each warrior’s aesthetic encounters on the ward. Each case narrative features one protagonist’s oral testimony, movement presentations, songs, performances, drawings, poetries, and the researcher’s reflexive meditation. The aesthetic encounter also extends to reconnecting the fragmented parts of the researcher herself in the form of aesthetic response, which unfolds the researcher’s evolutionary journey of understanding the topics of suffering, imagination, joy, and liberation in the realm of embodied arts and aesthetic living.

2024: MA Thesis

Grade A


Advisor: José Miguel Calderon 

Student: XiaoChuan Xie

E-Mail

Keywords: aesthetic encounter; art-as-testimony; forensic psychiatry; restorative decentering; intermodal arts; arts-based; narrative case study; aesthetic response

From Stagnation to Aliveness; 'A-ha' Moments, as Markers of Positive Change with Expressive Arts Therapy, Complemented by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This thesis delves into the pivotal role of "A-ha moments" in facilitating enduring and positive transformations within the frameworks of Expressive Arts Therapy complemented by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The primary objective is to illuminate the unique elements that contribute to profound changes in clients' lives within each therapeutic domain. The subsequent exploration aims to discern how the strengths of both Expressive Arts Therapy and CBT can be synergistically interwoven, creating a comprehensive and life-changing therapeutic process for the ultimate benefit of the client. It is a participatory qualitative research, which focuses on the meaning making process of the participants and the way perceive and process their experiences (Smith, J. A., & Osborn, M., 2015) The research begins with a detailed examination of the distinctive elements inherent in each therapeutic approach that foster transformational changes. Drawing on the principles and techniques of Expressive Arts Therapy and CBT, my work seeks to identify key factors contributing to breakthrough moments and positive shifts in clients' internal and external realities. The subsequent phase involves an exploration of the potential integration of the most effective elements from both therapeutic modalities. By understanding and leveraging the strengths of Expressive Arts Therapy and CBT, the aim is to create a holistic and dynamic therapeutic approach that maximizes positive outcomes for clients, as well as a much more extensive recognition and usage in the world.

2024: MA Thesis

Grade A


Advisor: Ellen Levine 

Student: Hadas Shulman

E-Mail

Keywords: A-ha Moments, Surprises, Transformation, Change, CBT, Intermodality, The 'Third', Cognitive Distortions,

Play of consciousness: culture-oriented expressive arts therapy

The dissertation touches on a wide range of issues at the intersection of consciousness research, cultural research, and art research, including psychosemiotic research, visual semiotics, psycholinguistics, and cross-cultural studies of consciousness. It considers languages of consciousness, culture, and art to describe the language of expressive arts that unites and considers the languages mentioned above. This dissertation combines theoretical, auto-ethnographic art-based autobiographical, and cross-cultural expressive art-based research, as well as phenomenological microanalysis of therapeutic sessions conducted using intermodal expressive arts therapy. The process of intermodal expressive arts therapy is explained from the point of view of L. S.Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology and studies of consciousness. The figurative and polymodal language of consciousness is congruent to the language of art. Levels of aesthetic analysis of the art form (P.Knill, S.Levine) are explained as a journey through the poles of the psychosemiotic tetrahedron of the image of consciousness (F.E.Vasilyuk). The process of giving birth to meaning in the territory of expressive arts is seen as an illustration of a mottos of expressive arts practitioners: «making art-making meanings». This dissertation classifies and describes the criteria necessary for successful expressive arts therapy. I draw parallels between the substitution model (P.Knill) and the idea of cultural mediation (L.S.Vygotsky), in which manipulations of art forms become substitute actions that allow you to get closer to solving problems, breaking deadlocks, using the Other as an intermediary. The paper examines the role of the Other in the concept of resonances and introduces the concepts of “aesthetic resonance.” The paper develops and describes methodological and theoretical foundations for identifying a new branch of expressive art therapy, which can be called “a culture-oriented expressive arts therapy” as a modern anthropological practice. This leads to the introduction of culture-related questions into the theory and practice of expressive arts. Several new concepts, such as the “culture of the work of consciousness” and “the culture of image” are introduced. In culture-oriented expressive arts, any art form belonging to traditional or modern culture is understood as a means of the attunement of consciousness and as a connector, bridge, and encounter which contributes to “expanding the play range“ (P.Knill) while providing a frame, becoming a kind of a “decentering process“ when it comes into contact with a different culture and a means of both strengthening identity and searching for it when it comes to native culture. This understanding has a wide range of applications. I address some of them by describing examples of my work with multicultural groups and the use of art forms from various traditional and modern cultures in working with Russian participants. Using cultural phenomenological approach the paper examines and describes “Meeting Point”, a cross-cultural, expressive art-based research study with participation of Russian expressive arts students and students from India, Hong Kong, Peru, Finland, the USA, Japan, and other countries. The study became an act of peacemaking, establishing bridges through the language of the expressive arts using traditional art forms (traditional music) and multidialog between people, and tracing the play of consciousness as an experience of unity and diversity.

2024: Ph. D. Dissertation

magna cum laude


Advisor: Stephen K. Levine 

Student: Varvara Sidorova

E-Mail

Keywords: Culture-oriented expressive arts, cultural-historical psychology, studies of consciousness, consciousness, cultural phenomenology, cross-cultural expressive art-based research, auto-ethnographic art-based autobiographical research

How does expressive arts therapy (EXA) enhance creativity inadolescent groups to promote well-being?

This thesis explores the use of expressive art therapy (EXA) to promote well-being among adolescents in Hong Kong. EXA combines different art forms such as visual art, dance, drama, and music to help people express emotions and enhance healing. The study involved providing art therapy sessions for a group of Hong Kong adolescents aged 15 to 19. The aim was to provide a safe space for self-exploration and discovery through engaging with various art modalities. The art therapy process encouraged self-reflection, self-acceptance, letting go of perfectionism, and developing a positive self-image. While the researcher expected EXA to foster gratitude, resilience, and optimism as forms of well-being, the research findings revealed that adolescents valued self-acceptance the most as a foundation for well-being. Through the process of creating and reflecting on their artwork, adolescents learned to be kinder to themselves and accept perceived flaws. The EXA experience highlighted the need for adolescents to develop authenticity and body-mind awareness as crucial aspects of well-being.

2024: MA Thesis

cum laude


Advisor: Ka Kit Lai 

Student: Wong Chian Ru, Jacmilla

E-Mail

Keywords: Adolescents, creativity, well-being, self-acceptance, expressive art therapy

Expressive Arts Therapy and the Highly Sensitive Person: A Way to Create Clarity

This thesis examines how Expressive Arts Therapy can be a way of creating clarity for High Sensitive Persons. Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), a term coined by Dr Elaine Aron in the mid-1990s, referring to approximately 20% of the population, is more affected by stimuli in the environment which could make them overwhelmed easily and more confused of own needs at times. As a HSP myself, I arrived at this topic through a re-discovery of my high sensitivity and the experience of this innate trait being honored as a valuable resource to create clarity in my learning of Expressive Arts Therapy. The methodology of art-based research on my own healing journey and case studies of two highly sensitive clients in the framework of Expressive Arts Therapy were adopted. Research results suggest that Expressive Arts Therapy facilitated the intrapersonal communication of myself and the two clients and provided a non-judgmental safe space from stimuli for the clients and made their high sensitivity a big resource, together with their rich imagination and their ability to make connections across themes, to create clarity. In the containment of Expressive Arts Therapy, the two clients embody the idea that their innate trait can be a gem instead of a hindrance in everyday life. The results encourage further research on more HSPs including factors such as gender, age and cultural background for a bigger picture of the connection between Expressive Arts Therapy and Highly Sensitive Persons.

2024: MA Thesis


Advisor: Judith Alalu

Student: Li Ka Wing Antara

E-Mail

Keywords: highly sensitive person, sensory processing sensitivity, Elaine Aron, expressive arts therapy, creating clarity, intrapersonal communication, sensory information, nervous systems, stimuli, stressors, phenomenological approach, intermodal, containment, from hindrance to resource, high sensitivity care

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