Touching on Emotions: Using Clay Work in a Context of Relational Empowerment to Investigate Sensitive Issues
This chapter illustrates how clay modelling was embedded in a methodology of relational empowerment to access knowledge from lived experiences of women who formed relationships with their babies while enduring domestic violence. The purpose of the research was to access deep and rich data based in emotional authenticity. From a critical perspective this approach counters popular dominant theories which base knowledge creation in clinical observation and survey. Framed in feminist principles, the research also sought to enable the empowerment of women who participated. Because clay work elicits emotional responses, its use was supported by a multilayered research design which built supportive relationships with and between participants. Within a carefully constructed design participants were asked to ‘model in clay an abstract representation of forming a relationship with your baby while in domestic violence’. Following a brief exploration of the use of clay in therapy and research and an outline of the research design, the value of this approach is summarised. Examples of participants’ clay work and their insightful descriptions of their clay models illustrate the efficacy of this approach. The limitations and benefits of using clay to research sensitive issues are considered and suggestions for further uses of this approach are outlined. The purpose here is to show how the thoughtful introduction of clay work to qualitative methodologies can reveal knowledge based in authentic emotions while enabling participants to access feelings of empowerment.