Human Trafficking Survivors and Short-Term Art Therapy: Facilitating a Sense of Safety

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Skinner, Marissa
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
Human trafficking involves the exploitation of human beings by forcing them into involuntary labor or prostitution. Survivors of human trafficking have higher than typical rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. This thesis outlines the intended use of art therapy to increase a sense of safety in American adult women human trafficking survivors in the South. The researcher conducted one virtual study session with three participants. The researcher employed a qualitative design with a guided safe place reflection and art response to their safe place. Participants also completed a post study questionnaire regarding their perspective on sense of safety following the creative process. Through thematic analysis and creative art processes, key themes and insights were identified. Three overarching themes were discovered through the art responses and questionnaires completed by the survivors: evidence of healing, seclusion, and an established sense of safety. This research study led to the use of a safe place reflection; the art response was found to be a potentially beneficial art therapy intervention to use with human trafficking survivors. The results of this study may serve to advance research in this topic and be used to guide the future development of an art therapy program for human trafficking survivors in a group setting. For future studies it is suggested to expand the duration of this study to contribute more data in order to explore more extensive healing options surrounding sense of safety involving human trafficking survivors.