Assessing the Extent to Which Art Therapy Can Be Used with Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse: a thematic analysis of published studies

Lauren Laird*, Natasha Mulvihill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
380 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In a 2015-2016 UK survey of 35, 248 adults, 7% reported experiencing sexual abuse as children (Flatley, 2016). This review considers the value of Art Therapy (AT) in recognizing individual needs and experiences and support victims to manage the lasting impact of abuse. Three main bodies of research were identified: the use of AT in childhood sexual abuse (CSA) investigations; the use of art therapy in the treatment of the psychological sequelae of CSA victims in childhood and adulthood; and an assessment of how art therapy compares to other therapeutic approaches for CSA victims. The review highlights that AT particularly benefits rapport building between victim and therapist/investigator, alleviates some psychological consequences of sexual abuse - particularly anxiety, post-traumatic stress and dissociation (Pifalo, 2002). Through engaging the limbic system, AT may also provide a communicative form, building a narrative where verbal communication is hindered (Cohen-Liebman, 1999). However, the analysis brings attention to several weaknesses in the current AT research: available studies tend to have small sample sizes and few quantitative findings (Eaton et al, 2007). This review concludes by identifying the need for research which considers the clinical implications of AT in CSA cases for the future.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Child Sexual Abuse
Early online date15 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for Gender and Violence Research

Keywords

  • Art Therapy
  • House-Tree-Person drawings
  • Childhood Sexual Abuse
  • Child Abuse
  • Limbic system
  • Creative therapies

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