Enabling self-identity revisioning through portraiture, for people living with life threatening and chronic illnesses: paint me this way!
thesisposted on 18.11.2015, 15:13 by Susan M.D. Carr
Arguably life threatening and chronic illness is not just an attack on the body, it is an attack on a person s sense of self-identity, shattering the means by which a person experiences the world, and by which they also are experienced, contributing to a person s sense of powerlessness and distress. People living with a life threatening or chronic illness, often describe the impact of their diagnosis, treatment and illness as having changed their sense of self-identity beyond all recognition. Seven participants, purposefully selected from those attending a weekly day-hospice session in Wiltshire, took part in the study. This qualitative, practice-based research project challenges the power dynamics in art therapy and attempts to equalise the relationship between researcher and participant through the development of a collaborative intersubjective relationship, within which the participants are recognised as experts on their lived experience, and in a series of negotiations , co-design their own portraits directing how they wish to be portrayed. Through this process the participants become patient/researchers (PRs) and the artist/therapist/researcher (ATR), by creating the portraits, also becomes a reflexive participant . This project utilises an in-depth multiple case-study design and multiple creative data generation methods as well as a phenomenological approach to data analysis. This project reverses the terms of engagement within art therapy and uses the art therapist s artistic practice or third hand to create portraits for patients. (This is based upon the assumption that most art therapy theories terms of engagement include patients producing art within the therapeutic encounter, however some psychodynamic and psychoanalytic art therapists may use client art generation selectively or not at all). This raises important questions around who makes the artwork in art therapy interventions . The use of portraiture as a third hand intervention enables the art therapist to develop a sense of positive focussed attention and mirroring and attunement through the art object, enabling the addition of coherence through aesthetic resonance and the holding of dualities through metaphor and symbolism. The results of this study demonstrate the power of portraiture as an intersubjective way of knowing, being and relating, enabling the revisioning of identities disrupted by illness, characterised by increases in participants creative capacity to adapt to illness and feelings of home-like-being-in-the-world, developing a stronger, more coherent lived experience of self-identity, effecting closure to difficult life experiences, and improving their overall quality of life.
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