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Portraits of persistent pain: a portfolio of work relating to the 'problem of pain'

Kirkham, Jamie A. (2015). Portraits of persistent pain: a portfolio of work relating to the 'problem of pain'. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Chronic pain is a mysterious and challenging problem that affects a significant number of people in a significant number of ways. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of these conditions is the highly subjective nature of pain, coupled with the apparent absence of any observable abnormality. In this study Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was adopted in order to gain access to elements of these subjective experiences and in response to its ‘invisibility’, a creative approach was also incorporated into its design. Seven working age female participants were recruited and invited to share aspects of their pain experience through both narrative accounts and pictorial representations. Participants’ images and their accounts of them provided a rich gestalt which communicates a range of difficulties in a single cohesive image, which in turn also served to compliment the other themes identified in the study. Participants’ unanimously found this feature of the study facilitative as well as cathartic and it is suggested that these positive experiences may also hold a significant clinical value. The current study supports that, by adopting multimodal methods as a means of exploring lived experience, a potential opportunity has arisen which could help to bridge the ‘gap’ between what is ‘seen’ and what is ‘felt.’ It is suggested that in the development of ever more creative means of approaching the ‘problem of pain,’ art and art therapy may be considered for its potential in helping patients to reveal aspects of their difficulties in order to be both better understood and supported.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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