Is designing therapeutic? A case study exploring the experience of co-design and psychosis

Renedo Illarregi, Erika; Alexiou, Katerina; Di Malta, Gina and Zamenopoulos, Theodore (2023). Is designing therapeutic? A case study exploring the experience of co-design and psychosis. Psychosis, 15(3) pp. 277–291.



A co-design project, consisting of individual and collective design activities, was organized with clients of a mental health service, in order to explore its potential to support people with psychosis. The group met for approximately two hours, weekly, for six months, participating in design activities and collectively deciding on the project purpose and outcome – a boardgame.

The experience of one group participant (Anthony) is explored, selected as the first case study within an Interpretative Phenomenological Analytical (IPA) framework. Following IPA’s ideographic focus, Anthony’s case was purposefully selected, as it portrayed a detailed picture, informing theoretical reflection on designing as therapeutic. The paper includes Anthony’s first-hand account, combined with an analysis of data from three semi-structured interviews, photographic evidence and a reflective diary kept by the lead researcher.

Results suggest that, for Anthony, design activity: a) helps developing a sense of agency b) is experienced as grounding in reality c) contributes to the development of inter-personal relationships, and d) has a different sense of rhythm than artistic practice.

These results are contextualized within literature on the lived experience of psychosis and suggest that designing can be beneficial for people with psychosis, providing the backdrop for further research and practice.

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