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Art Therapy for Relief of Physical and Existential Pain in Women Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis Open Access


Other title
Art Therapy
psychology of pain
art therapy
existential pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis
Type of item
Degree grantor
St. Stephen's College
Author or creator
Madeleine A. Mooney
Supervisor and department
Dr. Pamela Brett-MacLean
Examining committee member and department
Dr. Anna Oswald
Dr. Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Psychotherapy and Spirituality (Art Therapy Specialization)
Degree level
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.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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