I Am Not My Illness: Wellness Identity Development for Individuals Diagnosed with Schizophrenia
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
To date, few art therapy research studies have reflected how treatment can support wellness identity development for an individual independent from his or her mental illness. The purpose of this study was to gain deeper insight into how art therapy can assist in identity formation and positive ego development for individuals specifically diagnosed with schizophrenia. A phenomenological study was used to collect data through an open discussion focus group. Research volunteers had previously participated in art therapy groups while receiving care at an acute inpatient psychiatric unit. The data collected during the focus group was categorized into themes and then synthesized into a graphic novel. The visual narrative was created to not only humanize the experience of schizophrenia but also to amplify nine volunteers’ lived experiences and perceptions related to wellness principles and their importance to treatment and recovery. Alongside the publication of this written thesis, the graphic novel was meant to serve as a source of education to the wider public regarding the stigma of psychiatric illness and the importance of community engagement in treatment.