A study into the experience of dramatherapists working with children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions

Coleman, Alyson (2014) A study into the experience of dramatherapists working with children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. Other thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute.


In order capture the tacit knowledge which dramatherapists bring to their complex work, this qualitative study explores their experience in the specific context of their work with children who have life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. Understanding this experience has implications for practice and is relevant to the particular needs of the clients. The study has resulted in the emergence of several products, including a play, bereavement Special Interest Group and a chapter in a book. This three-phase project adopts a phenomenological practitioner-researcher approach through two key lenses: dramatherapy, and theories of children’s bereavement. Heuristic inquiry in Phase One captures the researcher’s personal experience of her practice, explored through creative methods, with themes being identified using Moustakas’ (1990) six phases of data-gathering. Children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions are supported by multi-disciplinary teams in a range of contexts; the themes identified in Phase One of the project were thus used in Phase Two to explore the experiences of school staff working in special education, of paediatric nurses, and of dramatherapists. Three focus groups were held to gain an understanding of the broader inter-disciplinary experience of these professionals, and thematic analysis (Silverman, 2011) was used to discover prevalent themes, which were then drawn down into the final phase. Phase Three involved in-depth interviews with four dramatherapists who work with this client group in different settings, with a view to gaining a richer understanding of their tacit knowledge. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, 2009) was utilised to synthesise the themes from all three phases of the project, informing and shaping the development of a range of products for different audiences. The devising, performance and evaluation of the play How Do You Think I Feel? is documented; the British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth) Bereavement Special Interest Group is discussed; and the co-authored book chapter ‘Beginning, Middle, End, Beginning’ is commentated on. Finally, implications for future practice and training are explored and elaborated.

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