Creating Community Connections and Reconstituting Self in the Face of Psychiatric Disability

By Lisa O’Beirne.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper explores the merits of employing a multidisciplinary approach to group work and practice-based research in a Psychiatric Disability Rehabilitation and Support (PDRS) day-program. Theoretical considerations and practical implications of the methodology, which drew on postmodern and poststructural theories of arts-based research, knowledge, power and subjectivity, intersubjectivity and reflexivity, are discussed here. These considerations informed the construction, analysis and presentation of a fictional, ethnographic-drama; a musical pantomime. Data were sourced throughout the creative stages of the performance and through discussions with the participants and audiences. The data included the songs, script, DVD recording of the dramatic enactment, verbal comments and conversations amongst the group and with the audience members at the two performances. Analysis identified changes in the group members’ subjectivity; that is, changes in their self-perceptions and subject positions from descriptions of being psychiatrically disabled to being a singer, storyteller, songwriter, performer and friend, able to try new things and achieve changes in their lives. Compassion was articulated in the songwriting and storytelling, also being echoed throughout the group and audience members’ comments about the songs, the story and the performances. Reflexive analysis highlighted the suitability and significance of arts-based research with people living with psychiatric illness. Implications for practice of the multidisciplinary approach used in this study lie in exploring the value of group work to facilitate PDRS aims and its relevance to other therapeutic situations and community development projects. Implications for research relate to the appropriation of inclusive and flexible research strategies that use the arts, intersubjectivity and multiple reflexive perspectives to generate research within existing arts-based programs.

Keywords: Arts Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Intersubjectivity, Reflexive Analysis

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.107-118. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 615.103KB).

Lisa O’Beirne

PhD Doctoral Candidate, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Currently completing a PhD within the School of Education at RMIT University, Victoria, Australia, I have also studied a Masters of Creative Arts Therapy (1997-2000), undergraduate Psychology and Sociology at La Trobe University, Victoria (1992-1994) and the teaching of Creative Dance (1995) and Steiner Education (1997-1999). My artistic foundations are in classical piano (Associate Diploma of Music Australia), violin, ballet and choral singing. I intermittently explore songwriting and improvisation styles for music and movement and founded a multi-modal improvisation group called Artists@Play (1999). I have developed and facilitated music, movement, drama and art programs for Disability Services, early intervention/integration educational support for students in primary school and in Transitional Education at a TAFE (Training and Further Education) Institute and taught and supervised Creative Arts Therapy postgraduate coursework and research projects at RMIT University.


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