“It is easier to express yourself through art”: A qualitative exploration of recovery through expressive arts





recovery, mental health, expressive arts, recreation therapy, creativity


Objective: Expressive arts (EA) is associated with positive experiences for those who engage in them. This study explores how PeaceLove, a structured EA program, contributes to personal recovery and well-being.

Design: We used a qualitative inquiry to gain a multifaceted perspective of personal recovery through participation in PeaceLove program.

Setting: This study was conducted at one of the four standalone specialty psychiatric hospitals in Ontario—Canada’s most populous province. The 346-bed hospital offers a range of specialized mental health services to those living with complex and serious mental illness, including adolescent, adult, forensic, and geriatric patients.

Main outcome measure(s): Four focus group interviews were conducted with 16 individuals with chronic mental health conditions to explore how PeaceLove promoted their personal recovery goals.

Results: The mean age of participants was 44 years with 56 percent being female. Analysis revealed four interconnected themes—self-discovery, recovery, art as a medium of expression, and a sense of well-being—contributing to participants’ personal recovery journey.

Conclusion: The study findings highlight the benefits of EA on individuals’ personal recovery and recommend recreational therapists to use EA as a “recovery tool” to support individuals in their recovery journey.

Author Biographies

Grace Williamson, BA

Recreation Therapist, PeaceLove CREATOR, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Sayani Paul, PhD

Research & Academics, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Mary Chiu, PhD

Research & Academics, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Dean Christidis, HBSc

Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Julie Murray, R/TRO

Recreation Therapist, PeaceLove CREATOR, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Whitby, Ontario, Canada


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How to Cite

Williamson, G., Paul, S., Chiu, M., Christidis, D., & Murray, J. (2023). “It is easier to express yourself through art”: A qualitative exploration of recovery through expressive arts. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 22(1), 9–20. https://doi.org/10.5055/ajrt.2023.0275