child sexual abuse, art therapy, trauma, treatment


Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a global problem that can have lasting effects cognitively, physiologically, and emotionally for the victim. If the psychological damage from CSA goes untreated, it can lead to unstable conditions within one’s self, and in relationships. When children are affected by sexual abuse, it can be difficult for them to verbalize the traumatic incident. This inability to express can lead to problems in viewing and experiencing the self, and may lead to dissociation. Many aspects of trauma symptoms are difficult for individuals and especially children to express verbally. Visual arts therapy offers an alternative to verbal-based therapies and allows survivors to express deep and overwhelming emotions within a safe atmosphere. Art therapy could potentially be the form of nonverbal therapy many CSA victims need. Research also suggests that creative arts therapy encourages healthy emotional regulation within CSA victims, helping to counteract dissociation. Due to limitations and lack of research, these theories are plausible but difficult to project onto the CSA victim population. Future research on art therapy’s effect on CSA is needed.