Date of Award

Spring 5-19-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Mitchell Kossak

Second Advisor

Meenakshi Chhabra

Third Advisor

Alexandra Lightfoot


There are currently over 65 million displaced people across the world. Refugee women present a unique subset of those displaced. These women often struggle with “triple trauma,” but these complex issues can go unvoiced and unaddressed as the women work to hold their families together in the midst of shifting landscapes and shifting gender roles and cultural norms. The following study demonstrates how the arts can offer refugee women an opportunity to express themselves and process complex issues in effective, creative, accessible, therapeutic, and cross-cultural ways. It details the process and explores the impact of an art-based participatory action research study conducted with a small group of refugee women from Burma resettled in Orange County, North Carolina. Throughout the four-month data collection period, the refugee women were able to explores issues of importance to them and determine how to best address these issues. An arts-based, public narrative process enabled the refugee women from Burma to discover and share both risk and protective factors present in their lives. Through this process, the research participants discovered just how important the Women’s Group was to them, and why this group was so impactful. Relationships between the refugee women and the American-born facilitators were strengthened through practices of cultural humility and cultural safety, as well as gender homogeneity, and arts-based processes. In the end, the trust built within these relationships enabled the refugee women to challenge the facilitators to help them keep the Women’s Group strong and stable after the initial research period had ended, an unanticipated and important outcome.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



Number of Pages


Included in

Art Therapy Commons




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