Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Shaun McNiff

Second Advisor

Vivien Marcow- Speiser

Third Advisor

Jordan Potash


This study examined the subject of home—specifically separating from and reconstructing home—to better understand the concept of home and its role in the immigration experience and the effectiveness of expressive arts therapy as a treatment method for immigrants. The literature supported that leaving one’s home and recreating another are major parts of the immigration experience. Previous studies found that these experiences can raise fundamental questions about where and what home is (e.g., Despres, 1991; Mallet, 2004; Malone & Dooley, 2006; Philip & Ho, 2010; Wiles, 2008). This study used qualitative methods to explore the research question: How do immigrant expressive therapists conceive separation from and reconstruction of home for themselves and for their clients? Ten expressive therapist immigrants participated in two semi-structured interviews for the study. The face-to-face interview included artistic exploration of the research subject. Participants could choose any art form and sometimes chose to work with more than one art modality. They were encouraged to complete free-writing following each art-making. A follow-up telephone interview provided an opportunity to review their interview transcriptions and art-making and share thoughts and reflections. The researcher used art-based methods to conduct this study and analyze data. As part of the analysis, the researcher created a poetic text that combined metaphors, quotes, and experiences the participants shared and from this text, a film that extended understanding of the interview content as a whole. Three themes emerged: (1) belonging-not belonging, (2) home here-home there; home nowhere-home everywhere, and (3) old me-new me (evolution of identity), and the art connected the themes. Art provided an additional language that reinforced dualities participants sometimes felt, contributed to experiences of reconstructing home, and provided a way to see and express internal experiences in an external form. The participants’ own understanding of what makes them feel “at home” furthered understanding of their work with therapy clients through the arts. The study provides valuable understanding of immigrants’ emotional and psychological experiences and the effectiveness of using the arts in the therapeutic process, and thus furthers understanding of the role and function of home in the mental health field.

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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