Art therapy with Korean migrant women in a Korean community in the UK

Park, Tae Jung. 2016. Art therapy with Korean migrant women in a Korean community in the UK. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis addresses an art therapy intervention in a Korean community in the UK. It describes the historical, social and cultural contexts of South and North Koreans, including Korean art and education throughout history in order to contextualize the research and the findings. It also portrays the researcher’s experiences as a Korean migrant as well as an art psychotherapist, exposed first to Eastern culture then to Western, becoming an art therapist and then working with Korean migrants in the UK. Case material from an art therapy group, an art activity group and individual art therapy with Korean migrants in different organisations were analysed alongside the author’s autobiographical journey which was also considered as a ‘case’. This research therefore explores how art therapy might be applicable to Korean migrants who are living in a Korean community in the UK in the context of the cultural complexities and social change characterised by migration. Throughout the research a qualitative research design was used which analysed the cases with an ethnographical lens, based on existing migration theories. Five conceptualisations were discovered that enable this researcher to understand this particular social group of Korean migrants. These are: cultural transition, or not; the relationship between migration experience and mental health; the influence of religion on migrants’ mental health; the relationship between Korean art education and art therapy; and the influence of socio-political issues in the Korean migrants’ community. These theoretical lenses illuminated how the process of migration has a massive impact on the migrants’ life in the host country and showed how it interweaves with the historical, social and cultural context of Korea.

Many assumptions were challenged during the research. Particular considerations for working with Korean people in art therapy were explored, and the research concluded that it was important to be aware and work appropriately with people of other cultures in art therapy within the Western framework, to maintain its relationship between art, health and culture. This study has implications for the significance of examining the art therapist’s assumptions and presuppositions when art therapy is introduced to another culture, and when working with similarity and difference. It also has implications for art therapy practice, namely the importance of considering: the cultural values of clients’ origins, including their previous experiences of art-making and art education, despite migrants’ exposure to Western society; the current socio-cultural context of clients’ lives in their community in the host country; and adjusting art therapy practice so that it is appropriate to clients from different cultures.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Art therapy establishment, Working with Korean culture, Working with Korean migrants, Migrant community

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


30 April 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

20 May 2016 10:11

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 11:11


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