Art therapy helps abused children

Artistic self-expression may be the best therapy for victims of childhood sexual abuse, finds a new study from the Universities of Bristol and Durham in the United Kingdom.

The study analyzes the impact of a program offered by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), called “Letting the Future In.” Here, social workers focus on creative therapies — painting, drawing, storytelling and more — to get children to talk about their abuse. Study authors said an artistic approach to therapy can “enable the children to safely work through past experiences, and come to understand and move on from what has happened.”

“Evidence-based therapeutic approaches are vital to help all children deal with the effects of sexual abuse,” lead study author John Carpenter, professor of social work and applied social science at the University of Bristol, said in a statement. “This ‘real world’ evaluation — the largest randomized control trial in the world for a sexual abuse intervention — is a significant contribution to the evidence base, providing benchmarks for others to evaluate interventions. Crucially, it also demonstrates the importance of offering therapeutic support to children and young people who have been sexually abused, to help them deal with their experience.”