Group art therapy with mothers of sexually abused children
This article aims to highlight the benefits that psychotherapy brings forth to the mother of children who have been sexually abused and the resultant positive effects this form of therapy has on the family plus the victim who is the sexually abused child. The null hypothesis of this form of therapy is: HO: Due to psychotherapy, the issues relating to sexual abuse that affects the mother, child, and family will not be fixed. This is tried against an alternative hypothesis: HA: Due to psychotherapy the issues relating to the sexual abuse that affect the mother, child, and family will be fixed. The reading explains to us a detail by detail way that psychotherapy involves in dealing with the situation at hand. It tell us the strategies involved and the effect it will have on those involved either directly or indirectly.
Psychotherapy employs various strategies when handling mothers who have been affected by child’s state of sexual abuse. Firstly, is to make the mother be aware of her part in the puzzle or the role she plays in the drama. Blaming the mother is not advisable but facilitating self-awareness, behavioral changes, personal growth, and building her protective abilities is primary to the whole process (Hagood, pg. 17). Since most the mothers were themselves molested sexually, their child’s victimization unravels her personal issues regarding the same. Therefore mothers should work on their own molestation problems (cited in Serrano, 1989).
Secondly, this mothers should overcome their resilient denial defenses (cited in Sgroi, 1982). Many of the mothers will refuse what their children tell them and even try to hide the truth for it to disappear. They do not imagine perceiving it in a different way since this may lead to a radical life change in the family. Some mothers even know but do nothing about it. Many evade reality which is actually the case.
Thirdly, therapist should build these women’s self-esteem and belief in their ability to change and grow to deal with the ongoing denial (Hagood, pg. 18). This involves gentle confrontation while avoiding heavy confrontation. Involving her in group therapy which gives her reassurance since she comes to see that other mothers are facing the same. It also involves encouraging socializing since women have been isolated from immediate family relations. This can be through exchange of contacts in the groups.
Fourthly, mother-daughter bond should be improved. This strategy helps unravel a family process that is incestual (cited in Giarretto, 1978). Mothers have negative feelings over their daughters for long and become hostile unconsciously on their daughters. This creates the environment for incest to happen since mother-daughter bond is weak and daughter turns to other father-figured males or her father to meet her needs emotionally (Hagood, pg. 19).
Fifth, therapists should monitor any further abuses whether physical or mental and appropriately report them to legal authorities.
Participants were the mothers of the victims who experienced sexual abuse (cited from Hagood-Slegelis, 1986). They were from all diversities in careers backgrounds. Those represented included teachers, nurses, executive secretaries, food service workers, electronic assistants, and homemakers. Well-groomed women also attended.
Group met weekly and they were from a group that previously attended therapeutic sessions up to the verbal level only. They employed art therapy techniques that are listed as follows:
Magazine Collage- This is me
It involves the women making individual collages that depict themselves using magazines, glue sticks, scissors, and large newsprint sheets (cited in Dalley, 1984). The therapeutic aim of this is to assist them cultivate an identity sense that would help them overcome guilt and stigma of being mothers to sexual abuse victims.
Involves use of paintbrushes, watercolor paints, and art paper where members pair off and communicate graphically with their partners without using words (cited in Keyes, 1983). The therapeutic aim of this is to better their social skills and in the process they learn to get comfortable more with each other.
Individual drawing- As I see Myself Today
Involves use of oil pastels and newsprints where women are asked to draw something that depicts how they see themselves at that specified time. Emphasis is on reducing self-stigmatization and viewing themselves as individual identities.
Group Mandala Mural- Merry Christmas
Focuses on dynamism of group members and their interactions with each other (cited in Liebmann, 1986). Used oil pastels and butcher paper that is large and round.
Visual Imagery- Fantasy Drawing
Involves visual imagery (cited in Leuner, 1969) where they were told to imagine they had a beach trip alone and write ones name a number of times in the sand with the waves rolling in and away (Hagood, pg.24). This made them accept members that are new and open those closed systems.
Involves making Kinetic-Family drawings where the family is doing something as one (cited in Burns & Kaufman, 1970). Drawings catalyzed verbal interactions.
Other methods used include triangulation, codependency role-play, genogram collage, my mother/my daughter, individual mandalas, lost in a storm, and life mandala.
Results of the study
Most women had eating disorders, the women frequently demonstrated denial of their actual feelings as some drawings showed happiness, mothers frequently showed feelings of jealous and anger towards their daughters.
Some women who are sisters started socializing with other people and stopped clinging to each other. The self-esteems of these women improved and they became more positive about their state and this reduced self-stigmatization. Old and new women felt mutually attached to each other. The women came to notice how their family had a history of molestation and they decided to stop it. Roles of husband and wife and mother and daughter became clearly defined and everyone assumed their right role hence no codependence.
Limitation to Art therapy
Art therapy faces an obstacle especially if drug use by the mother is involved since this leaves her unavailable physically and mentally.
The null hypothesis of this form of therapy is: HO: Due to psychotherapy, the issues relating to sexual abuse that affects the mother, child, and family will not be fixed. This is tried against an alternative hypothesis: HA: Due to psychotherapy the issues relating to the sexual abuse that affect the mother, child, and family will be fixed. Art therapy therefore helps women whose children have been sexually abused conquer their fears and problems regarding the issue of sexual assault on their children and even them and has created good relations socially with everyone affected directly or indirectly.
Hagood, M.M. (1991). Group Art Therapy With Mothers of Sexually Abused Children. The Arts in Psychotherapy (Vol. 18, pp. 11-21). Pergamon Press plc.