Department of Psychotherapy and Spirituality (St. Stephen's College)

The Master of Psychotherapy and Spirituality (MPS) program develops professional counsellors and psychotherapists who are well grounded in the integration of psychological and spiritual knowledge as a holistic foundation for effective therapeutic practice. Students may choose to specialize in Art Therapy, an evolving professional field that engages the healing process through creativity.
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  1. Art Therapy for Relief of Physical and Existential Pain in Women Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis [Download]

    Title: Art Therapy for Relief of Physical and Existential Pain in Women Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis
    Creator: Madeleine A. Mooney
    Description: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease with debilitating symptoms often including stiffness, joint inflammation, fatigue, and mood changes. It affects more than 20 million people worldwide. The purpose of this study was to examine whether group art therapy could help decrease existential and physical pain in women diagnosed with RA. Five women with daily RA pain were recruited to participate in a four-hour workshop, during which they created two intuitive mandalas bridged by a short journalling session. For their initial mandala, the participants were invited to represent their experience of pain. Following this, they journalled about resources they used to cope with their illness. In their second mandala, the participants imaginally represented about what they had journalled. Data collection included photographs of the women’s artwork and journal entries completed during the workshop, along with transcribed audio-recordings of the women’s discussions, and post-workshop interviews. Pain rating scales were utilized to record pain levels. In addition, I created two mandalas post workshop to gain a deeper understanding of the participants’ experience. Analysis of the data yielded four major themes, along with a number of related sub-themes, including: (a) experiencing physical and existential pain, (b) holding pain in, (c) tapping into resources, and (d) how art therapy helped. The women’s mandalas, workshop, and interview conversations indicated that pain was significantly reduced at the end of the workshop. Thus, the study demonstrated the potential benefit of group art therapy with a meaning- making focus to help relieve physical and existential pain for women diagnosed with RA.
    Subjects: Art Therapy, mandalas, psychology of pain, art therapy, existential pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis, spirituality
  2. Standing in the Tragic Gap: Courage and Resilience in the Lives of Ordinary People [Download]

    Title: Standing in the Tragic Gap: Courage and Resilience in the Lives of Ordinary People
    Creator: Margaret Ellen Claveau, MPS
    Description: The goal of this narrative inquiry was to gain an increased understanding of courage and resilience in the lives of ordinary people who have overcome adversity. The research question was, “What is the Lived Experience of Courage and Resilience in the Lives of Ordinary People who have Overcome Adversity?” The qualitative methodology of narrative inquiry was used to explore the lived experience of three ordinary people; Catherine, a woman in her eighties, survived the suicide of her first husband, and the tragic deaths of her son, son-in-law, and daughter. Lee, a woman in her early fifties, has been legally blind from age five. Mark, a young man in his mid-twenties, lost his older sister, a victim of incest, to suicide. The courage of each participant or co-creator was explored in a theological framework and resilience in a psychological framework. The narratives engage the reader in a manner that leads to a cognitive, and most importantly, a visceral understanding of courage and resilience. Participants readily admitted to being resilient. However, they were reluctant to admit to being courageous. It may be easier for people to identify with what they do than with who they are. Courage is a quality of the soul. Courageous people are humble. Ordinary people demonstrate courage through acceptance of what is and a fierce determination to live life to its fullest. Perhaps it is the very sacredness of courage that makes it difficult to admit to. The thesis has much to offer people who are supporting clients who may be “standing in the tragic gap”. The references, as well as the themes that were identified, will be useful to psychotherapists and others. They will be of interest to people who find themselves in a caring/supporting role.
    Subjects: courage after suicide, Resilience after suicide, overcoming adversity
  3. Transforming the Addiction to Perfection and Defeat [Download]

    Title: Transforming the Addiction to Perfection and Defeat
    Creator: Anne Caroll
    Description: This study is an in-depth exploration of one woman's experience of coming into relation with such functions as authenticity, personal and professional agency, and creative expression. As interpreted through a Jungian lens, these functions are associated with masculine energy. The mythical figure of Sisyphus, condemned by the gods to endlessly push a gigantic boulder up the side of a mountain, has been used to symbolize an addictive pattern of perfection and defeat that, with the critical inner voice of the \"never good enough,\" prevents the individual from claiming these traits. As a result of walking through the fire of the research process, the final learning is that by coming into relation with the masculine, in this case with Sisyphus, it is possible to know a wholeness of self that brings one into connectedness with others and with transcendence. Although ideas were drawn from a number of methodologies, including feminist research and narrative inquiry, a heuristic approach defined by Moustakas and Sela-Smith, and deepened by Romanyshyn's understanding of doing research with soul in mind directed the process. With the challenge posed by these authors, the researcher engaged in a concentrated praxis of action and reflection that finally exposed a depth of knowing that established congruence with personal values and academic requirements. The concept of facing and coming into relation with a complex belongs to Jungian thought and it is this framework that has guided the research. Many authors contributed but the most significant insights came through a dynamic interaction with women authors who share the feminist belief that personal experience cannot be separated from the political and it is by understanding the nature of these interwoven threads that one accesses essential truths. The final message is that a fierce and persevering desire to be in relation with masculine energy brings one to the center of experience. By standing at the core, there is the realization that, for a woman, this is the vast diffuse wisdom of the feminine and it is the masculine that gives it concrete form. With this awareness, there is a significant shift for the researcher on both a personal and professional level. To be free of the \"never good enough\" brings an authenticity of connection that alters relations in one's immediate circle and in the counselling room with clients. Furthermore, it is believed that this form of energy ripples outward. To heal oneself is to bring healing to others and hopefully to the planet as a whole.
    Subjects: addiction, Sisyphus, masculine principle, perfectionism
  4. Emerging Art Therapist Integrating the Psychophysiological Principles of Self Regulation Therapy (SRT): Integration of mind, body, and soul [Download]

    Title: Emerging Art Therapist Integrating the Psychophysiological Principles of Self Regulation Therapy (SRT): Integration of mind, body, and soul
    Creator: Janet Claire Stalenhoef
    Description: Nearing completion of my studies required for obtaining a Master degree in Psychotherapy and Spirituality with specialization in Art Therapy I enrolled in Self Regulation Therapy (SRT) training. Though personal and professional immersion in both therapeutic processes I developed a curiosity over the possible integration of the theoretical underpinnings of art therapy and SRT. My research methodology included heuristic inquiry (Moustakas, 1990), along with reflexive/narrative autoethnography (Ellis, Adams, and Bochner, 2011). I explored the lived experience of my immersion into the neurobiological approach to healing trauma, as taught in SRT, while also developing my emerging identity as an art therapist. Through self-reflective narrative I sought answers to my questions around how I might integrate overlapping therapeutic principles and practices of SRT with what I have come to value through my aligned identity and commitment to the community of the creative art therapies. Both approach the client therapist relationship through right-brain-to-right-brain intersubjective attunement, which attempts to reintegrate the mind body and soul of individuals dealing with the experience of trauma and its resulting dysregulating effects. Significant evidence of theoretical and therapeutic overlap was discovered, leading to validation for further research into this possible integration. Further client work and research study is needed to explore the feasibility of developing a protocol that might successfully integrate these two processes.
    Subjects: integration of Art Therapy and SRT, Self Regulation Therapy, healing trauma
  5. Conceptualizing the Process of Identity Development in People with Insecure Attachment [Download]

    Title: Conceptualizing the Process of Identity Development in People with Insecure Attachment
    Creator: Katherie Porter
    Description: The purpose of this research was to generate a theory regarding the development of identity in people with insecure attachment. In semistructured interviews, the researcher asked five co-researchers, three women and two men, about areas of identity. The questions covered career development, emotional experience, grief and loss, religious or spiritual beliefs, and the co-researcher’s name. The methodological framework for this study was constructivist grounded theory. The process of data analysis involved coding, developing categories, and memo-writing. Theory emerged from the data by the constant comparative method. Awareness of researcher reflexivity was sustained during the design, interviewing, data analysis, and writing stages of the study. Fundamental to attachment theory was John Bowlby’s (as cited in Rothbard & Shaver, 1994) assertion that the child develops “internal working models” (p. 33) of the attachment figure and of the self in interaction with the attachment figure. These templates are based on the repeated interactions between infants and their primary caregivers during the first year of life and become the model for the child’s conceptions of self and self in relationships (West & Sheldon-Keller, 1994, p. 36). The present study proposes a Working Model of Self in People with Insecure Attachment. The co-researchers’, or participants’, working model was composed of mistrust, isolation, independent thought, and hiding self. As a consequence of failure in the attachment system, the Working Model of Self in People with Insecure Attachment, and the resulting emotional and social delays, the participants experienced a lost self. All of the participants experienced mental health crises in early to middle adulthood. The three female participants “found themselves” by a journey of reconnection with their emotional and spiritual self.
    Subjects: Identity Development, grounded theory, Insecure Attachment, identity
  6. Trauma, Dissociation, and the Journey to Soul Healing [Download]

    Title: Trauma, Dissociation, and the Journey to Soul Healing
    Creator: Karin Gabriele Stewart
    Description: This research is a narrative inquiry into the immediate and long-term effects of soul loss retrieval as a way of recovering rom long-term trauma and dissociation. Particular interest is placed on the ability of soul retrieval to restore wholeness and power balance to a person’s life. In inquired into the lived experiences of soul healing, as described by four women who participated in a soul loss recovery journey, part of the Trauma Recovery Certification Program developed and taught by Dr. Jane A. Simington. I chose this method because it is a pioneering attempt to blend modern psychoanalytic techniques with ancient shamanic approaches that are still being used in traditional cultures all over the world. This particular therapeutic approach to Trauma Recovery addresses healing at a soul level. It is consistent with a growing interest in the spiritual, and in particular, in the journey of the soul. Shamanism is one form within the spiritual domain that weaves in ancient spiritual healing techniques, thus enriching and gathering together old and modern understandings of how we heal at a soul level. This research is also responsive to the context of our ethnically conscious and diverse society. It raises awareness and invites conversation about different paradigms of healing, and potentially offers more easily accessible choices to traumatized people.
    Subjects: Soul trauma, Shamanism, dissociation, soul pain, loss, recovery
  7. The Art of Compassion: Exploring and Integrating Counter-Emotions [Download]

    Title: The Art of Compassion: Exploring and Integrating Counter-Emotions
    Creator: Charles Chenard
    Description: Through arts-based research, interviews and facilitated discussions, this research explored how six volunteer participants were able to detect and integrate their counter-emotions; those emotions that represent a conflict between how we internally feel and experience an emotion, with our actual presentation of ourselves to others because of social conditioning. Participants explored the eight basic emotions (joy, trust, fear surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, anticipation) and through the creation of art, self-reflection, and discussion became present to their experience of having a counter-emotion. By exploring and unlearning previous negative beliefs about themselves, when experiencing a counter-emotion, they found a more compassionate view of self-emoting. Through this process, five central components surfaced for uncovering and integrating counter-emotions: lack of self-compassion; lack of congruency or a divided-self; a search for our true-self; a more compassionate self; and an emotional-spiritual experience. Learning self-compassion was another benefit of this artistic exploration of counter-emotions. Through self-acceptance and emotional honesty participants came closer to a truer self; more accepting of their counter-emotion and of others.
    Subjects: self-compassion, counter-emotions, divided-self, basic emotions, true-self/false-self, arts-based research
  8. Empowerment Through Altered Books [Download]

    Title: Empowerment Through Altered Books
    Creator: Marie Anne Muggeridge
    Description: The following is an Arts Based and Collaborative Inquiry research thesis, in which four female adolescent co-researchers engaged in group sessions to make altered books. The objective of this thesis is to explore the experience of empowerment of young women through creating altered books. The research question is, what happens when young women are given an opportunity to express themselves through the art practice of altered bookmaking? Four sessions of artmaking were held with the co-researchers as a group; subsequently, individuals met privately with the researcher to develop their chapters. The researcher used wit(h)nessed-art making to further investigate the empowerment of female adolescent voice. The findings included several themes: trusting the Spirit and therapeutic relationship, claiming authentic voice and wit(h)nessing spiritual connection.
    Subjects: witnessing, female adolescents, Collaborative Inquiry, meaning making, art making, altered books, Arts Based Research, spiritual connection
  9. Sojourning with the Spirit in Recovery from Mental Illness [Download]

    Title: Sojourning with the Spirit in Recovery from Mental Illness
    Creator: Beverly Anne Mennie
    Description: A large part of the population is affected by issues of mental illness. Yet, there has been a corresponding lack of spiritual content in how we have been defining mental health. In an attempt to respond to this lack, the World Health Organization acknowledged that, “An expansion of the WHO definition may be necessary to include a spiritual dimension of health if social scientists can agree that spirituality is part of health and not merely an influence” (Larson (1996, Abstract). \"More recently the definition of mental health changed, Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. (W.H.O., 2009, Mental health: As state of well-being, para. 1) This study is an attempt to contribute to this growing awareness and need. In particular, and based on the belief that integrating the Spiritual is a relational work that involves deepening counsellor understanding of that work, the chosen focus is one of self-study. The question posed is “What is my experience of learning to integrate a spiritual component into counselling psychotherapy?” This thesis developed from the lack of spiritual content in the definition of mental health. From the lived experience of the author, there is a large part missing from psychotherapy. The interest in the question of integrating a spiritual component into mental health therapy was first ignited by my changing role from mental health worker to counsellor. The heuristic research was collected over a period of one year using journal writing and art journals. The thesis begins with the theological metaphor of a weaver weaving the thread of spirituality into counselling psychotherapy. What is necessary, though not enough, is a capacity to know how the patient is experiencing himself and the world, including oneself. If one cannot understand him, one is hardly in a position to begin to ‘love’ him in any effective way. We are commanded to love our neighbor. One cannot, however, love this particular neighbor for himself without knowing who he [sic] is. (Laing, 1969, p.34)
    Subjects: Spiritual, Mental Illness, Mental Health therapy, Self-Study, psychotherapy
  10. Silent Stories: A Narrative Inquiry into Men's Journey with Grief in Middle Age [Download]

    Title: Silent Stories: A Narrative Inquiry into Men's Journey with Grief in Middle Age
    Creator: Andrius Petras Gustainis
    Description: The phenomenon of men's grief during middle adulthood after a significant death has been largely neglected in the literature. This narrative study provides insight into the lived experiences of three recently bereaved men as they recounted their stories of grief and loss. Data was gathered using semi-structured interviews, field notes, and follow-up interviews. The data was analyzed and reorganized through a process of restorying each narrative into a common framework which was validated by the men. Further understanding of the phenomenon was gained through examination and interpretation searching for themes and commonalities in the stories. The results indicated three distinct phases were present in each grief story at the macro level, (1) The Descent, (2) The Struggle, and (3) The Expansion. Within these three phases, ten narrative themes were also evident. These phases and themes were then studied in conjunction with theoretical models of grief, male psychological development milestones and difficulties, and a spiritual dimension. The findings suggested each man's experience of grief and loss transformed the process into a personal quest for salvation, healing and meaning. The encounter of death and bereavement in middle age became catalysts in their heroic journey for greater self-awareness, psychological growth, and spiritual maturity. In order to better serve the bereaved male population in middle adulthood, a re-framing of the male grief experience was required. This re-positioning of grief work for men would suggest a heroic encounter to integrate the losses into their life stories, and make meaning in their lives and speaks to the masculine psychology necessary to attract men to counselling support.
    Subjects: grief phases, men in middle adulthood