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  • Writer's pictureElijah Ugoh

How Art Therapy Can Help Survivors of Child Sex Trafficking

How Art Therapy Can Help Survivors of Child Sex Trafficking

Child sex trafficking is a horrifying issue that affects many children globally. These experiences leave survivors with deep emotional scars that are often invisible to the naked eye. With physical injuries, a visit to the hospital and some physical therapy may help. But how do survivors deal with the scars in their heart that others cannot see?

Traditional therapy may not be sufficient. Recently, more people have turned to trauma-informed approaches to help survivors cope with the devastating impacts of sexual abuse, trafficking, and other traumatic events. One common approach is the use of art. But what exactly is art therapy, and does it truly work as an effective treatment?

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of therapy that utilizes the creative process of making art to improve and enhance mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In art therapy, you work with a trained therapist who helps you make art by drawing, painting, or sculpting. The art you create helps you talk about your feelings, understand yourself better, and deal with difficult experiences. It's like talking about your feelings, but instead of using words, you use art.

How Does Art Therapy Work?

Expressive arts therapy uses different creative methods like drama, music, art, writing, dance, and play to help process trauma. These methods are often combined to create a comprehensive therapy. In sessions, survivors are encouraged to use pictures and sounds to explore their feelings and reactions to trauma.

Art therapy is often used in conjunction with traditional talk therapy but can also be practiced as a standalone therapeutic approach, and you don't need to be good at art to benefit. The main goals of these sessions are active participation, expression, imagination, and connecting the mind with the body.

Art therapy works by engaging both the creative and analytical parts of the brain. When making art, you use both your hands (engaging the body) and your imagination (engaging the mind). This combination allows you to express feelings and thoughts that might be difficult to put into words.

Creating art provides a tangible form for the internal chaos caused by traumatic memories, making them easier to understand and process. Additionally, using visual images and metaphors allows survivors to discuss their experiences indirectly, without delving into specific details that could be re-traumatizing. This indirect approach helps create a sense of safety and empowerment during therapy sessions.

How Art Therapy Benefits Survivors

Art therapy can be really helpful for survivors of human trafficking because it provides a way for them to express themselves without having to talk about their experiences directly. Since talking about what happened can be really hard for them, art therapy gives them a different outlet to communicate their feelings and thoughts.

Art therapy has played a big part in helping survivors of sexual abuse heal by giving them a way to express their trauma. Sexual abuse can lead to PTSD, which often involves storing bad memories in the right side of the brain or even in the unconscious mind. When these memories can't be easily accessed, it makes it hard for the brain's different parts to communicate.

PTSD can also make it tough for survivors to understand symbols or talk about their experiences using words alone. Art therapy provides a safe way for survivors to confront their trauma at their own speed, letting them express themselves without feeling threatened.

Creating art can help survivors process their trauma in a more gentle and indirect way. They can use colors, shapes, and different art materials to express their emotions and experiences, even if they can't find the words to describe them. This can be especially helpful for survivors who struggle with trusting others or feeling comfortable talking about their trauma.

Art therapy also creates a safe space for survivors to explore their feelings and memories without feeling pressured to talk about them. Therapists who use art therapy can help survivors interpret their artwork and understand how it relates to their experiences, which can be a powerful tool for healing.

How We’re Using Art Therapy to Help Survivors

At Mission Haven, we help survivors of trafficking and DMST to overcome their past and find meaning in their experiences. Our rehabilitation program at Mission Haven typically integrates this trauma-informed strategy to help DMST survivors forge a new path of life.

Our mission is to give survivors the support they need to have a fresh start. Your generous donations and support enable us to maintain a secure haven of hope and healing for these survivors. If you wish to contribute, volunteer, or partner with us, please don't hesitate to contact us today.


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