Theresa Van Lith’s A meeting with ‘I-Thou’: Exploring the intersection between mental health recovery and art making through a co-operative inquiry
Mental health recovery as a social justice framework addresses how people who experience mental illness can increase being active agents to assist in improving their quality of life. Similarly, co-operative inquiry challenges the power imbalances that exist among marginalized and vulnerable groups by seeking to create relevant platforms for equality. In this paper, the author brings together co-operative inquiry and mental health recovery values, thus building relationships with the participants based on mutual respect.
In light of this study’s focus on the role of art making in mental health recovery, the author also incorporated art-based research practices. The creative element enabled a dynamic and relational layer of research knowledge to emerge. This developed when the author acknowledged and experienced the first-second-person relationship empathetically through creating intersubjective responses.
The intersubjective responses brought a personalized understanding about the role of art making in the recovery process through utilizing the I-Thou relationship within the study. They also helped to build trustful and energizing relationships that are so important for mental health recovery. For example, the author sent each of the intersubjective responses back to the participants and Paul wrote back:
What you sent me gives me direction and confirms the decisions I have been making. I now see the distinctions in my art that you recognized. I am glad that I took part in this study as I see things about my art that I didn’t see before.
Art making offered unique and transformative experiences for the participants along their mental health recovery journey. The intersubjective responses expressed how the participants were routinely attending to their art making and as a result had a more insightful outlook and deeper knowing about themselves.
Theresa Van Lith
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