Art Therapy with Young Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Edited by Jenny Murphy.



ISBN 0 415 20571 9

This book is eloquent evidence of the healing power of being a
constant support for the sexually abused child. It contains
valuable insights into the fears, feelings and dilemmas which
preoccupy the inner worlds of traumatised children and young
people. Art therapy is the vehicle by which a space is provided
where the effects of traumatic experiences can be safely held. The
importance of accessing material which may be deeply buried, and of
undoing its capacity for impeding development and renewal, is
emphasised throughout.

The book is divided into three sections which explore the
context of therapeutic work and individual and group therapy. The
chapters are short and highly readable. Each chapter is soundly
embedded in theory and richly illustrated by case material. The
predominantly psychodynamic framework is informed by an up to date
understanding of the effects of trauma on memory and cognition, the
phenomenon of dissociation and the significance of attachment
issues. Some new ground is broken in exploring work with sibling
groups and ways of combining cognitive and art therapies.

Art therapy provides a unique opportunity to process experience
symbolically but the book will stimulate the creative thinking of
practitioners in a variety of settings. What stands out is the
contributors’ capacity for empathic attunement to the struggles of
child and adolescent survivors and their carers. This capacity, so
central to all healing work, means that the contributors have
allowed themselves to be affected at a deep level by their clients’
material. The assault on the self which they have experienced as
witnesses to trauma, their counter-transferential fears, guilt, and
distress are shared openly and honestly with a sensitivity to
gender differences.

This book is a rare jewel in a climate where child protection
practice tends to be procedurally driven and the therapeutic needs
of abused children are often unmet.

The book resonates with understanding of the challenge of
picking up the pieces in a wider context in which sometimes “nobody
hears” and proof can be “out of reach of a child’s vocabulary”.

It will appeal to a wide audience beyond art therapy and inform
anyone willing to engage creatively with sexually traumatised
children, young people and adults.

Sue Richardson is an independent psychotherapist and
trainer and co-author and co-editor of Child Sexual Abuse:
Whose Problem?
(Venture Press 1991).

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