Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Post-traumatic stress disorder-Treatment, Art therapy, Transitional objects (Psychology), D.W. Winnicott, Self, Complex PTSD, Trauma, Transitional object, Winnicott, Art, True self, self, Trauma-informed


This theoretical thesis explores how art-making can be used as a clinical tool in social worker’s psychodynamic treatment of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. A theoretical thesis was chosen in order to address the gap in the social work literature discussing the integration of creative action into trauma-informed care. D.W. Winnicott’s object relations theory and Trauma-informed art therapy theory are the two theoretical lenses applied and discussed. A review of the literature indicates that art created during therapy can function as a transitional object, facilitating the client’s ability to learn how to regulate their affect, recall dissociated affect and memories, bolster their ability to trust and establish a more cohesive sense of self, all of which are primary goals of therapy for clients with significant trauma histories. Implications for clinical social work and recommendations for future research were discussed.




iii, 71 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 64-71)

Included in

Social Work Commons