Creative Arts Therapy For Abused Children?
Background on the War Against Child Abuse
Maltreatment of children (neglect, medical neglect, physical abuse, sexual
abuse, and emotional or psychological abuse) continues to be a significant
problem in the United States.
In calendar year 2000,
more than 3 million cases were reported to Child Protective Services agencies
concerning the welfare of 5 million children. After
investigation, approximately 879,000 children were confirmed to be serious
victims of child maltreatment. Child abuse reports have maintained a steady
growth for the past fifteen years with the total number of reports nationwide
increasing over 45% since 1987. (Sources: USDH&HS; NCPCA; OCCAPC; TDPRS;
According to the most recent
national data compiled, as of July 2002, over 13,700 children are abused
or neglected each day and four children die each day because of child abuse
by a parent or caretaker. More than 18,000 children are permanently disabled
every year. More than 565,000 children are seriously injured every year.
And, it is now estimated that there are more than 60 million survivors of
childhood sexual abuse in America today. These startling statistics are frightening.
(Sources: See Above)
Child abuse and neglect cause physical and/or emotional harm to children.
They can produce short-term psychological consequences that range from poor
peer relations to violent behavior, as well as untold long-term psychological
and economic consequences when children reach adulthood. Abuse and neglect
can result in serious injury or, in extreme cases, death.
Long term effects of child abuse include fear, mistrust, anxiety, depression,
anger, hostility, hatred, ambivalence, betrayal, inappropriate sexual behavior,
poor self esteem, tendency toward substance abuse, difficulty with close relationships,
guilt and a higher risk of developing mental health disorders. Immediate intervention
and cessation of the abuse is clearly essential.
Once the child has been removed from the abuse situation, the child must have
effective therapeutic treatment. The primary goals of therapy for abused children
are to address their feelings about themselves, address what has happened to
them and address their future relationships. Both individual and group therapeutic
approaches are proven most effective in conjunction with creative arts therapy.
Arts Therapy: It’s Roots
therapeutic value of the creative arts has long been acknowledged
in history. Many cultures have been aware of the healing virtues
of art activities whether as individual, group or cultural expressions.
Visions, dreams, masks, symbols, art objects endowed with mystical
powers were all part of the shaman or healer’s tools. In every culture, decoration,
jewelry, painting, dance and music all played their part in celebrations
and life cycle rituals. In these contexts people have always
been familiar with the power of creative expression. However,
it wasn’t until around 1900 that all the influences came
together and creative arts therapy emerged as a way of focusing
this power in modern psychological healing methodologies.
Creative Arts Therapy: Defined
The term creative arts therapy technically includes
drama therapy, psychodrama, music therapy, art therapy, dance/movement
therapy and poetry therapy. Through these creative arts, abused
children can express repressed traumatic experiences and deal with
the psychological impact of maltreatment. Without this process,
it is doubtful they will ever grow to become functional adults.
The process facilitates educational, psychodynamic, cognitive and
transpersonal means of reconciling emotional conflicts; builds
self-esteem; fosters self-awareness; develops social skills; helps
manage behavior, solve problems and reduce anxiety; aids reality
orientation; renews trust with a caring adult; and, helps the abused
child learn to express emotions in a positive way.