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Navigating the Spaces Where Therapy, Education, Art, and Science Connect
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Increasing numbers of researchers are using arts-based, embodied or creative methods. They promote rapport and connection, facilitating research that reaches beyond surface understanding to expose authentic stories and hidden, richer truths. Whilst powerful, these methods can have unintended consequences and the potential for harm.

Drawing on case studies and lessons learned from programmes and work across research, therapy, education, art and science, this engaging book explores and demonstrates the porous borders of research.

It invites researchers to reflect and consider the boundaries and consequences of their work in order to deepen and widen its applicability and impact across science, art, education and therapy.

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Reflection, reflective practice, and reflexivity are found across qualitative research, art, education, and therapy. This chapter sets out why reflection is important; examines the kind of training researchers receive and why developing an effective reflective practice is often missing; explores the concept of reflective practice and the connection between self-awareness, rumination, and effective reflection; looks at reflection in education, and finally turns to reflexivity and how this can be taught through embodied awareness.

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Reflection is most effective when it results from embodied self-awareness. This chapter explores the discourses of embodiment, bodies, and moving bodies, before investigating somatics as a tool for developing awareness and how it can be used both therapeutically and educationally as well as for research. It ends with an example that uses somatics to teach young children to become more aware and reflective.

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Embodiment as a term is becoming widely used in mainstream society, and is generally associated with the physical body in some way. However, the definition of embodiment is more esoteric. It is defined by lexicographers as ‘a tangible or visible form of an idea, quality, or feeling’ (Oxford Dictionary, 2019). As such it has no immediate connection with the physical, lived and experienced body. There are a number of theoretical positions on embodiment, and this has implications for the ways in which it is used to conceptualise lived experience. My position is that embodiment incorporates a conscious self-awareness of the information, sensations, proprioception, images, feelings and emotions that arise from the body and the mind. In this chapter I briefly explore differences of understanding and conceptualisations of embodiment, reflect on how I understand and use the concept of embodiment and embodied and how this in turn impacts on the generation of knowledge and research that gives us an insight into embodied experience. I show how this is particularly relevant for those interested in researching the experiences of those with embodied differences, such as those with disability, chronic illness or neurodivergence.

The term embodiment is contested (Sheets-Johnstone, 2015), and part of the battle of using the word is the need to continuously define and determine what we mean by it. For some sociologists the idea of embodiment relates to how we perform our identity, the clothes we wear, whether we choose to have tattoos, piercings, or the way that we display to others how we choose to identify ourselves within society (Evans et al, 2004).

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Researchers, educators, artists, and therapists all work with and in relationship to oneself, the world around them, and/or others. However, it is only therapists who receive training on how to form, build, and contain relationships with a specific intent. This chapter draws on psychotherapy to understand the constituents of a therapeutic encounter or relationship so that researchers, educators, and artists might better understand the encounters they have and the relationships they form with their participants, students, or co-creators.

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The first part of this book touched on ways in which qualitative research borders onto psychotherapy, education, and embodiment. In Part II, I address the lessons a qualitative researcher or educator might learn from art and science, and the differences between a ‘scientific approach’ incorporating objectivity and meritocracy and one that might be more associated with qualitative, or embodied qualitative research. I explore the lessons that can be learned from art, the challenging terrain that represents the no-man’s land between science and qualitative research, and the practical and ethical implications of creative and embodied research.

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What does it mean to be an artist? An art researcher? Or a researcher who uses art? Is the definition of an artist someone who ‘makes art’, or is artistic expression an integral aspect of human identity open to everyone? If artists draw from their experiences to facilitate their own and others’ creative processes, how and where is this process different from or the same as the ideas of reflection, awareness, and relationship? This chapter explores what it means to be an artist, how art intersects with research, and my own arts-based research.

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It is not often that science and qualitative research are put together. This chapter examines why this might be by considering the scientific method. What is notable in the way it is most commonly taught is the absence of reflection, self-awareness, or the importance and impact of the relationship between the scientist and the world around them. I include an example of how scientific knowledge can enable awareness of the inner body and contribute to fiction as art and science.

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Research, particularly research with the self or with people, presents many challenges and constraints. This chapter considers how research ethics meets or diverges from the kinds of ethical considerations and guidelines for therapeutic work, and uses the example of working with children to explore the ethics of conducting embodied and creative research which approached a therapeutic boundary to explore the ethics of relationships, touch, and awareness.

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Part III is comprised of four case studies in which I explicitly explore how my creative and embodied research bordered onto education, therapy, art, and science.

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