Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An application of concepts of existential psychotherapy to art therapy
by Madigan, Joseph, Ph.D., Saybrook University, 2014, 135; 3628237
Abstract (Summary)

This research is a qualitative study that investigated the experience of art-making in substance abuse recovery from the perspective of existential art therapy. The purpose of this study was to explore and develop a theory about how art therapy may impact individuals in recovery from substance abuse. Six participants who utilized art as part of their recovery were interviewed, and their responses to a questionnaire concerning their use of art making as part of their recovery from substance abuse were recorded. This research used Greening's Four Existential Challenges: Three Responses to Each (1992) as the basis from which to examine the participants' subjective experience of developing creative responses to existential challenges from their use of art in their recovery.

This study employed grounded theory to analyze the data that were collected. The participant responses were coded and six major themes emerged pertaining to the ways in which art aids in long-term recovery: life changes, changes in relationships, being alive, personal freedom, meaning and contribution to their world, and connection vs. isolation. The theme of life changes was broken down into five subthemes: physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual, and changes in the way life is lived. The theme of being alive was broken down into four subthemes: changes in feelings, senses, intuition, and attitude toward living.

The participants' responses to the research questions suggest that they successfully used art as a means by which to transcend creatively the existential challenges that they faced in recovery. The participants also indicated that their making art in recovery led them to embrace creative responses to the challenges of sustaining their recovery. Based upon the data, the emergent theory identifies several ways that art aids in the long-term recovery process. The theory begins to offer an explanation of the ways in which one's making art can support sustained recovery from substance abuse and facilitate significant changes in the way life is lived, including one's relationships, personal freedom, and meaning.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hoffman, Louis
Commitee: Khamsi, Stephen, Schneider, Kirk
School: Saybrook University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 75/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Clinical psychology
Keywords: Art therapy, Existential challenges, Existential psychotherapy, Making art, Recovery, Substance abuse
Publication Number: 3628237
ISBN: 978-1-321-03816-3
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