Mask Work: Increasing Imagination and Developing Self Awareness In Children

by Janet L. Kares Groom

This thesis examines the experiences of four children who engaged with therapeutic mask work in a safe environment.  Prompted by the research question “How does participating in mask work in a guided workshop contribute to a child’s ability to enter liminal/potential space?” the thesis considers the impact of intuitive mask making and directed play.  Further, this thesis argues that these experiences lead to the development of imagination and increased self-awareness, and consequently psychological and behavioral transformation.  Each child’s use of imagination is observed through his or her responses and feelings toward the character suggested by the mask and its accompanying world that he or she created.  The similarities and differences between the character of the mask and the child are explored as an indication of the potential for increased self-knowledge.  The researcher approaches this research from the standpoint of a participant observer, using art and drama based methodologies that are phenomenological and hermeneutically oriented.  Art and writing by the children studied is incorporated, as well as the visual images of their masks.  This thesis will provide a foundation for the use of masks by expressive arts professionals as a therapeutic modality that develops children’s imagination and increases their self-awareness.