Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Mitchell Kossak, PhD

Second Advisor

Michaela Kirby, PhD

Third Advisor

Eliana Gil, PhD


The primary objective of this study was to explore how siblings of children with cancer utilize the expressive therapy technique of sandtray to express their lived experience. Using child-centered and creative research approaches, this study provided participants an opportunity to use art, play, and sandtray, in addition to verbal responses, to communicate what was important to them about their experience in ways that also respected participant’s emotional safety and developmental age.

Phenomenological and arts-informed methods were used throughout the research process, so that verbal accounts, sandtray creations, photographs, drawings, and poetic inquiry, were integrated to amplify the unique perspectives of five child participants (aged 7-18) who have experienced having a sibling with cancer. Audio- and video- recordings, transcriptions, and photographs served as data and were analyzed to reveal emerging themes and observations about the creation process. Results of this study indicated that when given the opportunity to express their experience creatively, participants explored major themes of the sibling relationship, loss of “normal childhood,” and feelings of confusion. These themes were revealed in final creations, verbal reflections, and during actual sandtray construction.

These results may highlight feelings of change, loss, and confusion in siblings. Results may also indicate the potential of using sandtray and other creative methods in helping children express complex experiences. Future research on targeted interventions and the use of creative approaches when researching children may be particularly helpful to siblings of children with cancer.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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