American Art Therapy Association Conference

I’m excited to be heading off to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) annual conference in Baltimore Maryland from 7-10 July 2016, where I will be presenting a Master class on arts based research. My presentation will be based on my Doctorate in Creative Arts Therapy which I undertook at MIECAT, Australia. See the abstract below.


This enquiry is grounded in my own personal experience of breast cancer. I experienced the loss of my breast, not only as a change to the shape and feel of my physical body but also in the way I understood and expressed myself as a woman. Still largely based on the bio-medical paradigm, the medical system in Australia encourages women to have a breast reconstruction at the same time, or soon after, their mastectomy in order to nalise their treatment and ensure they get back to “normal” as soon as possible. This enquiry explores how I used creative arts to nd meaning in my lived experience of breast cancer; in particular, how I made sense of my changed body, came to a decision to not have a breast reconstruction, and explored how to live as a one-breasted woman.

Using creative arts I attempted to speak from my body. Situated within a review of di erent discourses of the body, my enquiry centres on an understanding of the feminist phenomenological body as a continuously forming shape-shifting entity intermingled and coconstructed with the social and natural world. Working alone and alongside other women, I undertook numerous enquiry cycles using a range of di erent art modalities, with a particular focus on sensory knowing formed through relationship with the art materials. Touch provided the bridge between my experiencing, emotion,

and movement into art-making, allowing me to heighten my sensory awareness thus providing the space for new knowing to arise within my body.

Using a fusion of di erent modalities, my enquiry centred on two key images. One image created from my painted body allowed me to explore existential issues of mortality and the meaning of life, while the pink lady image provoked me to explore my feelings of anger, vulnerability, and shame. Through these images I discovered that a particular artwork is able to hold the complexity of lived experience.

My own arts based exploration of my breast cancer experience provides a method for other women to follow, it will inform my own arts based practice, provides a template for arts based groupwork, and contributes to the understanding of women’s lived experience of breast cancer that can influence the support provided by family, friends, and health services.

The full thesis is available on



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