Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Marital and Family Therapy

School or College

College of Communication and Fine Arts

First Advisor

Einat Metzl

Abstract

This research explores the experience of participation in a pilot program that integrated poetry and photography for a group of seven adults living with severe and persistent mental illness. Data was gathered in the form of written, visual and verbal responses generated through a semistructured, qualitative focus group that took the week after the end of the pilot program. The data was categorized and coded using a analytical procedure based on Photovoice, a participatory action research model that seeks to empower research participants by providing them with cameras to document and share issues of importance to their lives. Analysis of the data resulted in the emergence of six overarching themes: 1) The group experience 2) Self vs. other 3) Accomplishment and challenge 4) Confinement vs. freedom 5) Observing vs. Being observed/new perspectives and 6) Memories recalled. These themes were examined against existing literature about the use of photography and poetry in therapy, arts-based and group therapy treatments of severe and persistent mental illness, and the use of participatory and artsbased research in mental health. The findings of this research emphasize the rich possibilities for incorporating linked language/written and visual interventions in the treatment of severe and persistent mental illness, as the two offer complementary but distinct opportunities for healing, growth and self-expression. Moreover, this study demonstrates the importance of including mental health clients as participants in qualitative research regarding their perceptions of treatment, and the fundamentally empowering experience of being viewed and treated as experts on their own lives.

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