Date of Award

Spring 3-8-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Shaun McNiff

Second Advisor

Mitchell Kossak

Third Advisor

Patricia Fenner


Although case studies and personal accounts since the founding of the art therapy field discussed creating art alongside clients as a valuable practice, few systematic studies have explored this method. This collaborative art-based dissertation explored art therapists’ perceptions of two research questions: (1) What happens when art therapists create art alongside their clients in their group art therapy practices? and (2) What is gained and what is lost when they engage in this practice? Four group art therapists (3 females, 1 male) with 5 to 31 (median 8.5) years of experience contributed as co-researchers. They participated in 6 hours of semistructured interviews that incorporated art-making and discussion. As the researcher, I used personal response art-making, creative writing, painting, and poetic responses to gain a holistic sense of the inquiry and generate four video summations. These summations identify and present the individual co-researchers’ ideas, thoughts, gestures, phrases, and concepts related to the research questions. Finally, I created a culminating video to synthesize outcomes from work with all co-researchers. The outcomes suggest that creating art alongside clients affects four interrelated aspects of group art therapy: (a) developing an egalitarian group environment, (b) expressing authentic leadership, (c) augmenting therapist presence, and (d) boosting group member engagement. Three potential challenges of the alongside approach are (a) delayed therapist responses, (b) intimidating clients with artistic skills, and (c) decreased ability to recall sequential details related to construction of imagery. Further, methods to transform these risks into positive therapeutic encounters and benefits of creating art alongside group members emerged in more detail than in previous four essential skills: (a) multitasking, (b) shifting awareness, (c) letting go of control, and (d) media awareness. The dissertation adds the term companioning art-making to the literature. This inclusive term emphasizes the practice of authentically making art in the presence of group members.

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.



Number of Pages


Teoli Dissertation (105339 kB)
Culminating Video (49077 kB)
Co-Researcher #1 Video Summation (77619 kB)
Co-Researcher #2 Video Summation (77738 kB)
Co-Researcher #3 Video Summation (126545 kB)
Co-Researcher #4 Video Summation




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