I am a PhD based at the University College London, UK. I have a Masters in Art Psychotherapy and many years of experience working in the health sector. My undergraduate degree in Fine Art and Design inspired a process of my own personal heritage research which I incorporated into my art works. I am part of work package 4 ‘Heritage and Well-being’ in the CHEurope project.

My PhD project is titled ‘Relations with Objects – Developing holistic-participatory interventions to enhance wellbeing and recovery in patients undergoing treatment for cancer’. This is a four part, qualitative, ethnographic study that explores critical heritage as a means of supporting the wellbeing of individuals affected by cancer.The title ‘Relations with objects’ is important in identifying the core research concerns and is inspired by psychodynamic theory i.e. object relations theory. Melanie Klein first suggested that the way people relate to others and situations in their adult lives is shaped by relations with family experiences during infancy. Memories and images of people and events turn into objects in the unconscious mind that the “self” carries into adulthood, and which are then drawn upon by the unconscious mind as a template for social relationships and interactions in the present (Klein, 1932).

This project will utilise both collective heritage (museum objects) and personal heritage objects (heirlooms, personal and lucky objects) as a means through which patients can express and explore their own narrative. The objects utilised may stand in stark contrast to the ‘object world’ of the chemotherapy treatment suite with its intravenous fluid stands, metal treatment trolleys and medical equipment. I will examine participants’ relationship to these ‘object worlds’, and investigate if and how the heritage and personal objects may therapeutically breach the day-by-day flow of time during chemotherapy administration and along the patients’ 6-8 month chemotherapy treatment trajectory.

Contact: katie.o’donoghue@ucl.ac.uk

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