Date of Award

Spring May 2012

Access Restriction

Campus Access only Research Projects

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Marital and Family Therapy

School or College

College of Communication and Fine Arts

First Advisor

Paige Asawa


Social action - art therapy and complex trauma are relatively unknown and are not yet understood by the mental health field. This heuristic study seeks to explore the synergy between art making and social action as it applies to an adult survivor of childhood complex trauma. The researcher used 14 of 46 childhood complex trauma life stores as a stimulus for art making. The data was then analyzed to explicate meanings, patterns and connections. This analysis revealed that the art was used as evidence to counteract invisible systems of abuse. The art highlighted secondary traumas, contexts, and multiplicity effects of numerous traumas. These art works and new meanings culminated in a creative synthesis, which compelled the social action component. New and profound understanding of the researcher’s history of complex trauma was illuminated through the art. Social action respectfully empowered a transformation from trauma survivor to thriving activist. This study supports the use of art and social action with adult complex trauma survivors.