Date of Award

Spring May 2011

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


This study explores how a therapist’s personal history of complex trauma impacts countertransference in clinical work. Utilizing artmaking and journaling, the research questions and methodology are based on a previous study (Arbas, 2008), which this study replicates and then uses both data sets as for a comparative analysis. To inform this study, the literature review focuses on non-physical forms of child abuse, how child abuse over an extended period turns into complex trauma, how complex trauma effects a child, and how therapeutic treatments and art therapy can be utilized to help a child recover from trauma. In addition, Countertransference and vicarious traumatization, self- care, and Art and journaling as forms of self care are discussed. Through the data collection and presentation of data, the art responses and journaling illustrate effects and emotional responses of a therapist working with children with trauma histories in lieu of her own complex trauma history. The analysis identifies three themes: How countertransference manifests through the creative expressions used, how the creative reflections can help the therapist identify countertransference, and how the art process as a form of self-care helps the therapist is studied. Considering the data analysis from both this study and the study done by Arbas in 2008, it is observed that both subjects found that the art helped them to explore and identify their countertransference, release unconscious material, self regulate, better attend to their clinical work, and identify an increased need for self care.