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Candidate for Master of Arts in Art Therapy Open Access

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Objective: Pregnancy is a major transition in a woman's life, and yet standard practices in the United States do not often include mental health preventative care support for expectant mothers. The link between expectant mothers' mental health during pregnancy, fetal development, and mother-child attachment is increasingly supported by a growing body of research based in attachment theory, neuroscience and psychotherapy. Art therapy can provide an expressive and therapeutic opportunity to deepen the experience of pregnancy through exploration of personal emotions, mind/body awareness, and maternal identity. Method: A heuristic arts-based research study explored the experience of pregnancy for a first-time mother. The researcher was concurrently an art therapist in-training who engaged in self-inquiry by exploring personal meaning in her art. Qualitative data consisted of artwork and written journal responses created bi-weekly for the duration of the pregnancy using preferred art mediums, watercolor and ink. Findings: Thematic analysis of artwork and written journal responses revealed three major themes which emerged during researcher's pregnancy: 1) mind-body awareness, 2) attunement to developing child in-utero, and 3) support- enhancing resources. Implications: This heuristic study demonstrated the applicability of art therapy and personal art making for expectant mothers. The bi-weekly art making sessions became an anticipated time of reflection which appeared to decrease anxiety, strengthen new maternal identity, and increase attunement to the developing child. Art making during pregnancy facilitated exploration of mindfulness and emotions in a supportive and therapeutic manner. These findings can serve as a foundation for developing art therapy for standard preventative care models regarding support for perinatal care and postpartum depression.

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