Date of Award

Summer 9-15-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Theresa Benson


This literature review explores the potential benefits of the claywork modality within art therapy as a treatment for individuals who experienced childhood sexual abuse or trauma. The goals of this literature review are to indicate and define appropriate terms; discuss the forms and prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and trauma; explore traditional treatment models; investigate the benefits of claywork in treatment for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and trauma. The research reviewed included published studies, research analyses, and literature reviews covering the topics of childhood sexual abuse and trauma, group therapy, art therapy for the treatment of trauma, and claywork. The research was chosen and prioritized based on the size of studies, and how recently the research was performed. Two studies were also reviewed: A 1995 study by Anderson involving two groups of five adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the form of incest; and a 2015 study by Haynes consisting of three adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the form of sex trafficking. Both of these studies employ exclusively claywork as the art therapy modality in treatment. The evidence suggests that the lasting negative effects of childhood sexual abuse and trauma are benefitted by the therapeutic factors of clay and the physical and emotional benefits of claywork. The author notes that the vulnerabilities of this review include the lack of claywork-specific studies, the narrow scope of childhood sexual abuse and trauma treatment research, and the lack of diversity in populations studied. Future research should address these vulnerabilities, as well as addressing the stigma faced by different populations of survivors when reporting, and revising the terms used to be more firmly empowering to survivors.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.




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