The art of body mapping: A methodological guide for social work researchers

Michelle Skop


INTRODUCTION: The purpose of this Canadian social work research was to explore the healthcare experiences of men and women with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (FM), a chronic condition of unknown origin.

METHODS: This study had a total sample of 35 Southwestern Ontarians who participated in two separate qualitative methods of data collection. Ten participants completed in-depth interviews, while 25 participants engaged in body mapping, an arts-based research method, within a series of focus group sessions. The latter method for data collection is the focus of this article. This material provides social work researchers with a methodological road map by outlining the design and implementation of the body mapping process, sharing the lessons learned in data collection and addressing practical and ethical considerations for future studies.

FINDINGS: This research found that: (a) participants experienced structural barriers to accessing healthcare services and unsupportive attitudes from healthcare providers; (b) participants’ healthcare experiences were affected by their gender, age, class and race; and (c) participants used self-management strategies to cope with healthcare barriers. The study also found that the body mapping process had therapeutic value.

CONCLUSION: This research contributes information for the transformation of healthcare policies, programmes and clinical practices for the FM population. As a form of applied research, the body mapping process has also helped to empower a marginalised population while promoting innovative forms of social work research.


body mapping; arts-based research; methodology; health; fibromyalgia

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