Group attachment through art practice: a phenomenological analysis of being seen and showing
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Sagan, O. & Sochos, A. (2015) Group attachment through art practice: a phenomenological analysis of being seen and showing, Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities, vol. 37, , pp. 45-56,
The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of a social art practice and group attachment in the life of a mental health service user with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used as a means by which to explore interview data and bring to bear theories of attachment and psychosocial theories of the creative process. The study found that the process of coming to be seen and showing, relating and narrating, was part of a process enabled by experiences of group attachment within specific groups. These groups appeared to share the core principles of a TC. The artist's improving reflective capacity and art practice informed and strengthened each other within a context of attachment, containment, communication, inclusion and agency (Haigh, 2013). Whilst phenomenological work of this kind is small scale, the nature of the involvement with the participant facilitates a first person narrative which allows unique insight into human meaning making. The study offers pointers regarding the role of social art practice and emphasises the importance of developing attachments as part of mental well-being, as well as the potential role and challenge of this for individuals with severe relational problems. The study stresses the importance of groups that nurture particular experiences such as belongingness and sense of agency, and suggests why these experiences may be more effective for some individuals than one-to-one therapy. The research adds to the debate regarding the benefits of engaging with the arts and the means by which the value of publicly funded community arts projects can be assessed. It also puts forward the case for TCs as potentially offering a substantial springboard not only to recovery but to higher creative functioning.