Helm, Heather

Committee Member

Murdock-Bishop, Jennifer

Committee Member

Kahlo, Danielle

Committee Member

Gershwin, Tracy


College of Education and Behavioral Sciences; Department of Applied Psychology and Counselor Education, Counselor Education and Supervision


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley, (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



257 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Due to the high prevalence of childhood sexual abuse (Finkelhor, 1994), most mental health counselors will likely provide treatment to adult survivors. However, many counselors lack specialty training in working with this vulnerable population (Priest & Nishiinura, 1995). Recent neurobiology research has illuminated the long-lasting effects of childhood sexual abuse on the brain and its implications for emotional expression and regulation (van der Kolk, 2014). Informed by this research, it stands to reason that expressive therapy, defined by Malchiodi (2005) as “the use of art, music, dance/movement, drama, poetry/creative writing, play, and sandtray within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation, or health care” (p. 2), may provide a more effective means of focusing on the nonverbal areas of the brain where trauma is stored (van der Kolk, 2014). While expressive therapies are not new to the field of counseling, little research has explored their potential benefits for the treatment of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This single-case study interviewed one adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse (ASCSA) and their counselor regarding their experiences in expressive therapy for the treatment of childhood sexual abuse. The data showed that participants had a complex relationship and expressive therapies created opportunities for the client participant to integrate trauma. The results of this study add to the sparse literature concerning the use of expressive therapy with ASCSA, informing counselor education and training efforts in this area, and especially, give voice to both ASCSA clients and counselors regarding their experiences.

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Copyright is held by the author.