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James E. Bulosan

Changing Schemas: A Heuristic Response to Working with a Cancer Population

Jimmy Bulosan, “Sleeping to Wake Up”, 2004. Mixed Media 10’x10’x10’

          When I arrived at SAIC and began learning about the research being done in art therapy, I found that there was a big push toward a more humanistic model of research. Shaun Mcniff, President of the American Art Therapy Association at the time, was an advocate of moving art therapy research in the direction of heuristic research, where the researcher was also a research subject and, in the end, the findings were presented in an artistic form.

            I found this attitude toward research perplexing. During my undergraduate work in psychology findings were of no value if they were not statistically significant. So how could a model of research be worthwhile if the findings in the end were subjective by nature and presented in an esoteric manner?

            Based on these conflicting sets of research values, I chose to do a heuristic study to better understand this concept that I originally found so irritating. I also chose to use this form of research as a way to better understand the population at my internship site. Stepping into the oncology unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for the first time and seeing the devastating results of cancer, I wanted to better understand those  experiences so I could  discover the ways I could be of help. The humanistic aspect of heuristic research lends itself to a  deeper understanding. It gives an  opportunity to get a sense of what it is like to feel, see, and live in a certain way.

         In the end, my experience brought about a wealth of information. This thesis outlines my process and the themes I found from the information I gathered. The themes contained in my thesis center around three main topics: the application of deconstruction philosophy through an art therapy model, self-care for the caregiver, and current art therapy research trends and possible future directions within the field. Validation was the common thread that ran through all these topics, and the shifting of borders (i.e. truths and schemas) to reach this validation.


          James E. Bulosan graduated with a BA in psychology from the University of South Alabama in 2002. While pursuing his Master’s degree in art therapy, he completed his clinical work at Allendale Association and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he developed his therapeutic skills with adolescents in a residential school setting and adult patients with cancer.


Thesis Advisor: Randy M. Vick, Associate Professor, Chair, Art Therapy

Thesis Advisor: Barbara Fish, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Art Therapy




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