Date of Award
MA - Master of Arts
Trauma-focused approaches to psychotherapy continue to gather attention as a growing body of research demonstrates the pervasiveness of traumatic experiences and trauma-related disorders across the lifespan. Art therapy, a relatively young field within the mental health landscape, utilizes the creation of images in therapy through a variety of art media as a tool for intra and interpersonal communication in the therapeutic space. Parts work, a collection of trauma-informed theoretical methods that includes Internal Family Systems therapy, Structural Dissociation and Ego-State therapy, is a systemic framework that proposes that each person is comprised of various parts (or distinct inner voices), under the leadership of the authentic Self. There is limited research regarding the efficacy of combining parts work and art therapy with survivors of sexual violence. To expand upon current intersecting research in this field, the author explores methods of integrating art therapy and parts work at an outpatient clinic with eight sexual violence survivors (five adults and three children) over the course of eight months. As a result, all clients demonstrated an increase in self-awareness regarding symptoms and trauma-response triggers, and some demonstrated a decrease in intensity of trauma-related symptoms. Data was collected through therapist observation, client self-report surveys including the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth addition (PCL-5) and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC), and client surveys tracking severity and intensity of symptoms. The positive responses to trauma-focused art therapy and parts work interventions indicate that this can be an effective trauma treatment modality that warrants further exploration.
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Gerig Shelly, Maddie, "Art Therapy and Parts Work with Survivors of Sexual Violence: Development of a Method" (2022). Expressive Therapies Capstone Theses. 552.
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