Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Mitchell Kossak

Second Advisor

Kelvin Ramirez

Third Advisor

Einat Metzl


The research in this study focused on how storytelling through artmaking, specifically, narrative embroidered story cloths (tela bordada) has been used traditionally in rural Central Mexico. The study explored place-based identities and traditions embedded in the culture, and examined how these processes could potentially be incorporated into art therapy practice in these communities. The research question, “What is the experience of engagement in tela bordada?” illuminated the meaning of Indigenous theory and expanded the import of the experience of the material and process. This led to the discovery of finding meaning explicit in the participants’ experiences and implicit in the researcher’s experience of designing and conducting research, exposing a need to decolonize art-based research approaches.

Thirteen participants were recruited from individuals associated with two university programs located in Michoacán, Mexico. Qualitative data were collected through a 12-session mixed-method, arts-based (ABR), phenomenological approach using art making and reflective journaling. The approach was chosen wherein art making was utilized during data collection (embroidered story cloths) and analysis (weaving) with the inclusion of a quantitative exploration of the possible role of ethnic identity, using the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM).

Themes of wellbeing, identity, gender issues, expectations, and the experiences of place and time were evident in the participant experiences with an exploration of Slow Theory of Time, the utility of the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM), art and storytelling as research and intervention, and research methodology. Additionally, the data suggested that the concepts of intentionally making space for self-exploration, the need for creating accessible places for that exploration, and mindfully engaging self-reflection, self-examination, self-monitoring, and shutting out external distractions with the aim of finding or creating meaning were key elements of the participant experience. Clinical application of the outcomes included possible benefits of incorporating “Slow” therapy using locally sourced materials and methods, such as artisan craft, and emphasizing relationship, hope, and intention, as viable considerations for supporting clients versus Western, formulaic, brief solution focused approaches. Additionally, the experience with the materials and process raised questions about how research approaches are represented and promoted, suggesting that ABR might be redefined as Indigenous Research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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