Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Dr. Raquel Stephenson


This thesis examines the relevance of sensory approaches in adults with serious mental illness. Furthermore, it approaches mental illness from a critical psychology perspective, inquiring who is considered mentally ill and why, the stigma attached to this label, and the oppression of mentally ill individuals as a minoritized group, known as sanism (LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016). This topic was studied by facilitating therapy groups using sensory-based artmaking and sensory psychoeducation. Three group sessions with three different groups of 5-12 individuals at a partial hospitalization program (PHP) were conducted. Artmaking and thought processes of the group participants and myself as a facilitator were examined through arts-based research and reflective notetaking. Using qualitative data analysis, three themes were identified arising from the group process: sensory experiences and preferences, narratives of success or failure, and interpretations of the therapeutic benefit. Sensory approaches were indeed relevant in this population, corroborating existing research on this topic (Kandlur, 2023; Hitch et al., 2020). Furthermore, it was theorized that the artmaking process elicited subconscious material in the participants about the theme of success or failure in their lives in general, and connected to societal expectations around compulsory able-mindedness in mental health treatment (Egner, 2019; Rimke, 2016; Hess, 2022). The thesis concludes by overviewing relevant frameworks with the potential to empower individuals in their mental health treatment, as well as suggestions for further research.

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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