Visual Journaling and Expressive Writing for a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Heuristic Study

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Owens, Katherine
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
This heuristic arts-based research study examined the experience of visual journaling and expressive writing for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), specifically incest. This inquiry explored the effectiveness of visual journaling and expressive writing as art therapy directives to recreate and alter the ending of one’s story. The review of literature appeared to lack research on the exploration of adult survivors of CSA describing their experiences such as panic attacks during intimacy. Assumptions included increased coping skills during intimacy to achieve more fulfilling intimate encounters. The methods consisted of Moustakas’ six phases of heuristic inquiry. The thematic analysis resulted in five overarching themes. These included (a) self-image, (b) panic attacks, (c) family, (d) spirituality, and (e) written communication. The researcher was able to recreate her story, alter the ending, and provide a title for her altered book that served as a container for her visual journaling and expressive writing. As a result of the study, the participant-researcher experienced an increased sense of empowerment and advocacy, pride of self, spiritual growth, hope, and enhanced self-love. Further research for more studies to use a larger sample size and examine the experiences and intimate encounters of survivors of childhood sexual abuse was recommended. The reader is advised that the following thesis includes descriptions of, and artwork related to, sexual abuse encountered by the participant- researcher.