A Heuristic Study of Vicarious Trauma: A Visual and Written Thematic Analysis

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Baker, Liza
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
In this study the unique capacity of vicarious trauma (VT) to alter the self was explored and the development of positive growth in the experience of negative outcomes. To facilitate a more introspective, experiential, holistic inquiry of vicarious trauma this study utilized an arts-based approach adapting the six phases of Moustakas’ (1990) heuristic model as documented through self-narrative and creative processes. Research documented disclosing experiences of personal history and visual and written modalities that constructed meaningful connections between creative processes and the impact of trauma upon the emotional life of the researcher’s self. The data included artworks and journal entries created during the researcher’s eleven-month art therapy internship. A thematic analysis of these visual and written responses revealed themes of disrupted identity, disrupted meaning systems, new concepts of self, and changes in worldview. These themes indicated vicarious trauma’s unique capacity to alter the self in a process called vicarious transformation. Future studies were recommended.