Bryl, Karolina & Gerber, Nancy

Arts-based research approaches to studying mechanisms of change in the creative arts therapies


Karolina Bryl & Nancy Gerber 


The purpose of this presentation is to present a preliminary qualitative research study exploring the role and function of multiple dynamic interactive aesthetic and intersubjective phenomena in the creative arts therapies process relative to transformation in perception, behaviour, relationship, and well-being.  A group of doctoral students and faculty studied these phenomena in an analogous creative arts therapies laboratory context using a method called Intrinsic Arts-Based Research. Intrinsic Arts-Based Research is a systematic study of psychological, emotional, relational, and arts-based phenomena, parallel to those emergent in the creative arts therapies, using individual and collective intrinsic immersive and reflective experience in combination with qualitative and arts-based research methods. Our primary goal was to simulate the creative arts therapies experience in order to identify, document, and describe the complex transformative phenomena that occur at the nexus of arts-based expression, reflection, and relationships in the arts therapies. Through a deductive thematic analysis of written accounts of these simulated creative arts therapies experiences by participant/researchers in the laboratory we identified three primary dynamic and interactive broad constructs that together, with more specific modifying themes, might account for and describe change within the creative arts therapies.  These broad dynamic interactive themes are: ruptures, resolutions, and transformation; relationship and intersubjectivity; and, arts-based expressive processes.  The more specific modifying themes include: dialectical rupture and resolution, relational attunements and ruptures, imaginational flow, transcendence and ruptures, sensory/kinesthetic/embodied ways of knowing, and intersubjective transcendence. We propose that change in the creative arts therapies is driven more by a dynamic system of interactive phenomena, the varying combinations of which create conditions for relational attunement, imagination, dialectical tensions and creative resolutions, and the ultimately creative transformation.


Gerber, N., Bryl, K., Potvin, N., & Blank, C.A. (Under review). Arts-based research approaches to studying mechanisms of change and transformation in the Creative Arts Therapies. Frontiers in Psychology Special Issue:  The state of the art in Creative Arts Therapies



Karolina Bryl, PhD, R-DMT/DMP, CMA, RMST/E, is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University. Member of the Polish Association of Dance Movement Psychotherapy (Ethics and Research Committees), American Dance Therapy Association (Global Membership Committee) and Schizophrenia International Research Society (Ethics Committee).

She has lead dance movement psychotherapy and somatic therapies sessions in the psychiatric settings and in private practice, individually and in groups, with children who have suffered neglect and abuse, who have the difficulty of adaptation and autistic spectrum, and adults with mental disorders, depression and schizophrenia. Since 2013 a research team member at Mind, Movement, Interaction, and Development Research Group at Pace University, International Psychoanalytic Association Lifetime Research Fellow, and 2016-2017 Contemporary Freudian Society fellow.

Research interests are: (1) DMT/DMP effectiveness in adults with mental illness, (2) nonverbal behavior and the body’s relevance to psychic processes, and (3) neuropsychoanalytic and developmental research.

Presenter Photo

Nancy Gerber, Ph.D, ATR-BC is Associate Clinical Professor Emerita at Drexel University and Visiting Scholar at Florida State University. Following Dr. Gerber’s 22 years as an art psychotherapist and a supervisor of creative arts therapies services in a psychiatric hospital, she assumed a 14 year directorship of the Master’s Degree Program in Art Therapy, until she authored and assumed directorship of the Ph.D Program in Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University. Dr. Gerber has presented and published on doctoral education for art therapists, mixed methods research, aesthetic intersubjective perspectives and practice, arts-based research, and the transformative aspects of creative arts therapies.  Dr. Gerber chairs the Doctoral Education Task Force for the American Art Therapy Association and is co-facilitator for the Arts-Based Research SIG and Consortium at the International and European Congresses of Qualitative Research. Dr. Gerber was the first recipient of the first Distinguished Educator’s Award from the American Art Therapy Association.

 Presenter Photo

Recent Publications

Gerber, N., Bryl, K., Potvin, N., & Blank, C. A. (Under review). Arts-based research approaches to studying mechanisms of change and transformation in the Creative Arts Therapies. Frontiers in Psychology Special Issue:  The state of the art in Creative Arts Therapies.

Archibald, M., & Gerber, N. (2018). Arts and Mixed Methods Research: An Innovative Methodological Merger [Special issue]. American Behavioral Scientist. Advance online publication,

Gerber, N., & Myers-Coffman, K. (2017). Translation in Arts-Based Research. In: Leavy, P. (Ed.). Handbook of arts-based research (587-607). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Scotti, V., & Gerber, N. (2017). Rendering beyond_words in transitioning to motherhood through visual and dramatic arts [Special Issue]. Voices, 17(3). DOI:


Recent Presentations

Archibald, M., & Gerber, N. (2018, August). Arts and mixed methods research: An innovative methodological merger. Paper presentation at the Mixed Methods International Research            Association Conference, Vienna, Austria

Siegesmund, R., & Gerber, N., (2018, May).  Arts-based research special interest group day.  Full-day presentations at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Urbana, IL.

Gerber, N., Siegesmund, R., Moriya, D., Cahnmann-Taylor, M., & Sajnani, N. (2018, May). Ethical considerations in arts-based research. Panel presentation at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Urbana, IL.