Visual Symbol Formation and its Implications for Art Psychotherapy with Incest Survivors – A Case Study

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Daphna Markman Zinemanas


The additional value and unique contribution of art psychotherapy to the treatment of incest survivors is exemplified through a case study of a 56 year old woman. Art psychotherapy is unique in its capacity to enhance change through visual symbolization: that is, activities such as painting, drawing and sculpting. Through visual symbolization, implicit, non-verbal, sub-symbolic contents acquire a concrete presence available for reflective contemplation and mentalization.

Implicit relational contents may be articulated first through visual symbolization. The patient can have a sense of safety and control over the therapeutic process because he/she can choose to express him/herself non-verbally through visual symbolization alone. This is especially crucial with incest survivors because of the experienced helplessness connected to traumatic events.

If therapeutic change occurs, this will be evident in future products of visual symbolization. Thus, it can function as a diagnostic tool and as evidence for change, as well as serving as the major way of expression.

Keywords: PTSD, Incest, Art Psychotherapy, Mentalization, Case Study, Visual Symbolization.

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