Parents` Perception toward the Use of Art Therapy in Childhood Trauma

Parents’Perception toward the Use of Art Therapy in Childhood Trauma

Parents’Perception toward the Use of Art Therapy in Childhood Trauma

Significanceof the Study

Violence,accidents, severe parental conflicts and hostility have adverseimpacts on social, emotional, physical, behavioral and cognitivedevelopment of children. Children exposed to such conditions are twoto five times likely to display difficulties in their developmentwhen compared with those from harmonious homes. Most of the cases ofchildren experiencing trauma go unnoticed because parents areignorant of the signs and symptoms. The effect of trauma in infancyand young childhood extends to later years and includes impairment ofthe structure and functioning of the nervous system and makes thechild vulnerable to subsequent trauma. Young kids react differentlyto situations from older children and thus hold longer memories aboutthe issues than their older counterparts. According to Kowitt,Emerling et al. (2016), since infants cannot express themselvesverbally concerning dangers and precarious issues at hand, maturepeople assume that those kids are protected from experiencing traumaby their tender age.

Also,when traumatic incidences occur, parents tend to think that theirchildren are quite young to comprehend whatever is happening, andthus ignoring the feelings of the infant by avoiding discussing thematter. However, Kowitt, Emerling et al. noted that young childrenare affected by traumatic incidences even though they may not show asense of understanding the situation. The events that couldtraumatize the children as researchers have found out could be issuesthat threaten their safety, or that of their beloved ones likeparents, caregivers, and siblings.

Incidencesof accidents, domestic violence, elongated and intensive physicalharassment, sexual abuse, war, natural calamity among others exposethe child to trauma. It could also occur as a result of a painfulmedical process, or sudden disappearance or loss of a loved one whowould be a caregiver, parent or a sibling which may lead to the childgoing through stress (Kowitt, Emerling, et al., 2016). The disorderin kids can be treated by use of art therapy where creative process,art media, and the resultant artwork are utilized by the mentalhealth care providers in collaboration with the art therapists. Thoseartworks reconcile the mental and emotional conflict to fosterself-awareness, explore their feelings, improve reality orientation,develop social skills and manage addictions and general behavior.This study is about the perception of parents toward the use of arttherapy in childhood trauma and this will inform mental healthprofessionals on appropriate strategies and course of action in theintervention.

Purposeof the study

Thepurpose of the study was to determine perception of parents in theimpact of art therapy in treating childhood trauma. Thecombination of various interventions has focused on admission totherapeutic programs, medication, home visits by professionals andthese have had partial response. Art therapy is a therapeuticintervention that is anticipated to facilitate further response inaffected children and infants. However, for effective implementationof the art therapy, the role of parents cannot be negated. The studywill look at the perception of parents about the use of art theory todeduce their role implementing the intervention.


Thereis a difference in parents and people with no children on theimportance of understanding if Art Therapy as an effective treatmentfor childhood trauma. Null Hypothesis: There is no difference inparents and non-parents on the importance of understanding if Arttherapy is an effective treatment for childhood trauma.


Impactof trauma on children include withdrawal symptoms, retardation inmental growth, depression shown by shedding urine anyhow, beingmentally absent, sudden silence during a conversation and runningaway while she realizes that one is annoyed (Wallace, 2015). A showof pain and agony while discussing the cause of trauma is anotherdepiction of the impact trauma has on the child. Art therapy is useof art work such as painting, drawing, writing, pottery as well asmolding and other creative pieces to engage the traumatized childrenand in the process ensure they relax and become able to discusstraumatizing issues thus getting rid of the problem. For younger kidswho cannot speak, art therapy helps them to watch and make them smilethus building a new face of life (Albretch and Antcliff, 2014).According to this thesis, some parents desire their children not tobe engaged in artwork as the process of treatment, while the expertsthink otherwise.

Diagnosingand treating trauma is a real tall order for the mental healthprofessionals because it is hard to get the stressing issues out ofthe kid, but at the same time could be very easy with the help of achildren psychologist. Depending on the situation at hand, themethods of treatment differ so much and thus the studies that havebeen done will give us the insight both profound and vast (Kowitt,Emerling, et al., 2016). Klorer (2016) found out that children arethe most innocent beings in the world but are the most affected bytrauma, and since they are on the extreme of being affected, theyalso forget very fast. In the cases of accidents, six kids wererealized to have seen parents who were learning how to driveaccelerating the car and hitting objects along the road, therebydamaging the cars while their children were there (Klorer, 2016). Thechildren then cried for at least three days and could board eventheir school buses in the fear that drivers would also lose controland hit objects. When it was persistent, school nurses were called toassist as the kids could not concentrate in class, where they finallyopened up to tell their experiences. The evenings after the familycars were delivered from garages where they were repainted andrepaired. However, it was difficult to convince the children to enterthe vehicle so that they could have lunch out. Later, the fatherswere advised to paint the car with different colors as it would makethe child think that it was a different one for the family. On doingso, the child forgot of the past experiences with the excitement ofhaving new cars that will not cause accidents (Klorer, 2016). Thosekids were traumatized, and the only way to get them healed was theuse of artwork which was painting the cars differently so as to havethem know that they had new cars and the accidents are a thing of thepast in their families.

Losinga loved one to the infants is a condition that one may think that achild is not feeling the impact. In his study, Wallace (2015) thetendency of parents and mature people thinking that the child doesnot understand what the situation is in the case of loss of a lovedone, it is a dangerous move. He asserts that in his process ofresearch, there was an encounter with eight kids who had gone throughthe trauma of losing a sibling, a caregiver, a parent or a situationof family disintegration due to domestic violence. In the process ofjustifying that the kids do not understand what is happening, thechildren who had lost their loved ones were crying all over chasingthose who came visiting their homes, and those that came as theinfants gave new caregivers cold shoulders and total rejection wasexperienced in the process. It was noted that the gap is usually feltdue to the loss in the sense that when those kids were shown thephotos of the missing person that they were too closely attached to,they smile and feel as if the individual is back again. Wallace(2015) further reveals that when there is domestic violence, the boychild tends to be more attached to the mother while the girl showspassion to the father and therefore, whenever a fight ensues in thehouse, the boy runs to defend the mother, and the girl supports thefather. However, in the long term, the infants are affected by thelack of peace in the house and suffers trauma that makes the kid crya lot. If the parents are peaceful in the house, the children arerealized to be happy and welcoming, but when there is a fight ensuingin the house, the most affected person is the kid. After the battle,the use of mobile phones to take photos and playing games reduces thetrauma and ultimately heals the children.

Lusebrinkand Hinz (2016) brought out the issue of art therapy in treatingchildhood trauma that is a result of the war. They argue that use offilms and movies that are close to the experiences had during the wartime that made them become refugees heals their mind and learn toappreciate that it is not only in the places they come from thatthese things happen. He took twelve kids who were four to six yearsof age who had become refugees as a result of the war in theircountry. All of these kids were said to be bitter about what hadhappened to their homes, property, parents, and siblings. Some hadlost their loved ones while all of them had lost all theirbelongings. As such, some could not trace either a mother, or afather, or a sibling as they either disappeared or died during thewar. They were engaged in a series of interviews to have theirfeelings captured, and it was felt they were all traumatized. Thefeeling was so deep that the kids showed how they were attacked andgiven a chance, how they would revenge for their kindred (Lusebrinkand Hinz, 2016). They decided to have a movie for these children thatshowed how countries fight and in a setting as their country. Thefilm showed how men, women, young, old and children are maimed andexecuted just as how the countries to where they belong did. In theprocess of watching the film, it was noted that the kids couldassociate themselves with whatever it was that was happening thereinand owned it up. That helped the kids to become acquainted with theart of war which seemed to make them feel better as the filmprogressed. The extroverts discussed the events in the movie whilethe introverts appreciated whatever the rest endorsed (Ugurlu, Akca,and Acarturk, 2016). By the end of the film, those young children hadhealed a great deal which brightened their faces show that the art inthe movie was to heal the trauma.

Artis a therapy that treats childhood trauma in those affected by thetraumatizing situation. Albretch and Antcliff (2014) found out thatuse of art therapy for children who were hit by the landslide at theclay center was the best way to seek the solution for the bedevilingproblem. It is argued that the kids were picked after their house wasburied by the landslide which caused complete destruction of the homebuilding and all household items. Further, their animals and petswere also buried in the process. That was taken as a natural calamitythat caused profound stress and ended up traumatizing those children.The kids were taken through cognitive therapy such that they wereable to reconcile their personal emotions after the happening of thatincident. The children were taken through a series of healing therapywhere they were placed in groups for discussion of their experiences(Albretch and Antcliff, 2014). Each of the group had a guide and acounselor who showed them the line of important debate which wouldhave given the best outcome.

Forsexually abused and physically assaulted children, the cognitivebehavioral therapy took them by storm as it worked for them in thebest way possible. It was noted that there are those things that theparents choose to leave without them being discussed while they leavethe children being traumatized (Wallace, 2015). A case in point is acase of a female child who is always sexually abused and physicallyassaulted by those who are supposed to show love to them but do not.Wallace (2015) found that those kids harbor so much pain and stresswithin their private persons without disclosing what they go throughuntil a session was held for them to open up. During the first weekof the therapy, mental health care providers counsel the kids on theneed to speak their experiences. The second week they have a mentorwho is also a victim of the same circumstances as they have beenhaving and from the third week, the children are placed in groupswhere they will discuss their issues among themselves.

Inconclusion, this literature review was to show that it is possible totreat trauma and heal it through cognitive behavioral change and arttherapy. The purpose is to demonstrate that people can reconcilethemselves with the reality having lost their emotional touch duringthe traumatizing situations.



Thisresearch used cross-sectional approach in which the researchassistants were served with opinion surveys to administer to businessunits, households, offices and general population. The researchassistants were advised on modalities of the study including the factthat the respondents must be above 20 years old. They were advisedagainst guiding the respondents as this could influence the responsesbut instead they were to advise them to respond to the best of theirknowledge. The surveys provided for the anonymity of the respondentswho did not include their names in the survey questionnaires.

Thestandardized survey instruments were used with questions originatingfrom recommendations of five previous researches. The preview of theprevious researches related to the perception of parents andnon-parents of on the use of art therapy as an effective method oftreating trauma and informed the designing of the questionnaire. Thefirst part collected demographic information from the respondents.This information included age, marital status, gender, income andwhether or not the participants had children. Then a total of tenquestions designed on a scale ranging from 1 (disagree) to 5(strongly agree) followed. An example of the questions included doyou think the use drawing, creative writing and paint is helpful tochildren experiencing trauma?


Forthis study, the main measure was the standardized questionnaires of10 different items derived from the systematic review of sources andaddressed the research questions. The study also utilized the IBMSPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Science) tool to provide andanalysis of the dependent and independent variables. The independentvariable for the research was parents and non-parents while thedependent variable was the perception towards the use of art therapyas an effective method of treating trauma in children. The dependentvariable manifested in the question does the use of art therapy inchildren with trauma alleviate their condition?


Conveniencesampling was the most appropriate approach for the cross-sectionalstudy design involving perception towards the use of art therapy as atreatment approach in children with trauma. The sample was obtainedbasing on the proximity of the researcher in different locations toarrive the sample group {N= 133}. The participants that appeared tobe above 20 years were given the questionnaires majorly in businessunits, offices and households that were close to the researchassistants. Those who showed interests were given time to respond tothe questions and were not coerced or advised to complete the surveyitems. The research assistants collected the surveys in the offices,business units and households and took to the researcher who in turnsorted out data, inputted and analyzed it.



Allthe participants in the were above 20 years apart from 2 (19 years)and 1 17 years 48.6 % were between 20 and 30 years, 24.2 % werebetween 30 and 40 years, 14% were between 40 and 45 years old, 6 %were 46 and 50 years, 7. 2 % were above 45 years. Of the totalsample, 53.7% of the respondents were female while 46% were male. Most participants 54% did have children or at least a child, 43.4 %live with a spouse, and 51.2 % are singles, 4.4% are either widows,separated or divorced.

Oneducation, 14.3% completed high school or less, 17% attended two yearcollege degree (A.A./AS..), 39.2 completed a four year college degreecourse (at least a B.A or B.S) 4.5% had completed some graduate work,25% had advance graduate degree.

Descriptive Statistics





Std. Deviation

On a scale from 1-5, is it important to understand if Art-Therapy is an effective treatment for generalized childhood trauma?






Do you have children?






Valid N (listwise)


Fig.1 descriptive statistics

Asshown in the descriptive statistics chart (fig. 1), 133 participantsin the study responded to the question of is ‘art therapy aneffective treatment for generalized childhood trauma?’. Theresponse to the question was on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being “stronglydisagree” and 5 being“strongly agree”. As seen in the chart,the mean for dependable variable was at 3.96 when the respondentswere asked to choose from 1 (strongly disagree), 2 (disagree), 3(somewhat agree), 4 (agree), 5 (strong agree). Inferring from themean response of 3.96, somewhat agreed or agreed with theproposition.

Independent Samples Test

Levene`s Test for Equality of Variances

t-test for Equality of Means





Sig. (2-tailed)

Mean Difference

Std. Error Difference

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference



On a scale from 1-5, is it important to understand if Art-Therapy is an effective treatment for generalized childhood trauma?

Equal variances assumed










Equal variances not assumed








Fig2. Independent sample test

At-test was used to assess whether the proposed hypothesis arestatistically different from each other by comparing the means of thetwo groups in the independent variable. For this study, theindependent variable was the parents and non-parents. It is clearfrom the results that there is a slight difference as to the whetherart therapy is an effective intervention for children with trauma ornot. The response for mean was 1.47 (sd= 0.501) meaning that mostparticipants did not have children. From fig. 2, On the scale ofunderstanding whether art therapy is an effective treatment of traumain children, the average mean for this population stood at 3.97(sd=1.051). Therefore most participants felt that art therapy is aneffective intervention in children with trauma. On the other hand,the independent variable was tested using the Levene tool forequality of variance and gave a significant of .497 (p= .497) whichis greater than the .05 and therefore there is no statisticalsignificance. Also greater than .05 is the sig 2 (tailed) value of.376. Simply put, the study rejects the alternate hypothesis as thereis no significance difference in perception of parents andnon-parents regarding the effectiveness of art therapy as anintervention for trauma in children.


Theoverall purpose of this study was to test the perception of parentson the use of art therapy in children with trauma to establish theeffectiveness of the method. The study proposed that the role ofparents in implementing art therapy would have an impact on effectivemanagement of trauma in children. By use of t-test, it wasestablished that there was no significant effect of parents ornon-parent in the perception of the effectiveness of the use of arttherapy in children with trauma (T= -888, df= 126, p= .376). Thisproves the null hypothesis that there is no difference in theopinions of parents and non-parents on the importance ofunderstanding if Art therapy is an effective treatment for childhoodtrauma.

Duringthe collection of information, two questionnaires were incompletelyfilled and therefore were nullified from the study. 6 participantsdid not complete the parental status while another 2 did not indicategender, 5 did not state whether they have children or not while 3did not indicate whether they lived with a spouse or not. If forexample, the 6 respondents had indicated their parental status andthe 5 indicated whether or not they have children, the results couldbe different. It will be possible to draw conclusions from the study.

Evidently,the missing information impacted the results of the study a greatdeal since sample for the cross-section study was not that large. Itis anticipated that a large scale and perfectly executed survey couldyield different results. Looking at the sample for this study 54% ofthe participants did not have children. This could be an importantfactor in influencing the direction of the results.

Limitationsand Future Studies

Asmuch as this research adds to the knowledge of social workers andacademic studies, it admits that the design has inherent limitationsthat should be addressed in future studies. Four limitations werecritical in this study. To begin with, the research utilizedcross-sectional data which has inherent problem of common method biasand causality. The findings of the study correspond with socialexchange theory and literature of earlier studies. However, they donot confirm causality. This could have been impacted by the role ofthe research assistants in the present study. Experimental researchdesigns should be employed in future to yield causal efficacy of arttherapy intervention in children with trauma.

Secondly,the non-probability sampling techniques used in the study could havelimited the generalizability of the study findings to the populationof study. Also important is the fact that within this research, thestudy did not investigate the perspective of the parents who have hadthe experience with art therapy at designated institutions. Thisfactor will be important in dealing with bias reporting or aspects ofattitude. Future research should investigate the role of parents whohave had the experience with Art therapy as an intervention inchildren with trauma to make comparisons of the perception ofnon-parents and parents of children who have not had the experienceof having a child with trauma. This will increase the confidence ofadjudging the conclusions as an accurate account.

Awindow of opportunity for future research stemming from previousresearch suggests that effective management of trauma in childhoodhas utilized multiple approaches. While the present study sought tofind the perception of parents with children with trauma about theuse of art therapy, it will be beneficial to investigate the efficacyof the role of parents and non-parents in implementing art therapy.

Implicationsfor Social Work

Thepast twenty years has seen increase in cases of childhood trauma andgrowing recognition of the application of non-mainstream interventionprograms in children. Trauma plays a larger role in children’ssocial problems and mental health. What comes to mind of people whentalked to about trauma are images of war and other forms of violencedeeds that lead to post-traumatic stress. If future studiessuccessfully document the perception of parents and non-parents inthe use of art therapy as an effective intervention in children withtrauma, this will expend the role of social worker. Parents might bereluctant to support their children and the social workers or healthcare givers in implementing art therapy which studies have shown isan effective intervention. This will be problematic to the socialworker since the role played by the collaborating parent inimplementing such treatment is very significant and cannot berelegated. The professionals might not reach out to the children toimplement treatment.

Further,the knowledge on importance of art therapy to the wider communityopens up more opportunities of communal intervention in mentalillness. To begin with, without the knowledge, the primary caregivers and more so parents with children experiencing post-traumaticstress may not seek medical attention. The study in itself isinformative on the role of the caregivers in not only accepting andimplementing treatment but also recognizing vital signs and symptomsof such conditions. If the perception of caregivers is suspect, thenthose prescribing such interventions should be made aware to devisebetter strategies of addressing the stalemate.


Elbrecht,C. &ampAntcliff, L. (2014).Being touched through touch. Traumatreatment through

hapticperception at the Clay Field: A sensorimotor art therapy.InternationalJournal Of


Klorer,P. G. (2016). 6 Neuroscience and Art Therapy with SeverelyTraumatized Children. Art

Therapy,Trauma, and Neuroscience: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives,139.

Kowitt,S. D., Emmerling, D., Gavarkavich, D., Mershon, C. H., Linton, K.,Rubesin, H., …&amp

Eng,E. (2016). A Pilot Evaluation of an Art Therapy Program for RefugeeYouth From


Lusebrink,V. B., &ampHinz, L. D. (2016). The Expressive Therapies Continuum asa framework in

thetreatment of trauma. ArtTherapy, Trauma, and Neuroscience: Theoretical and


Ugurlu,N., Akca, L., &ampAcarturk, C. (2016). An art therapy interventionfor symptoms of post

traumaticstress, depression and anxiety among Syrian refugee children.Vulnerable

Childrenand Youth Studies,11(2),89-102.

Wallace,K. O. (2015). Art Therapy and Trauma. In Thereis No Need to Talk about This