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Dissertation Diary Part 5: Meeting my Sisters

Part 5 of Project Dissertation (For more context- please refer to Dissertation Diary Part 1)

<Please note that this “Dissertation Diary” 5 part blog post series is formatted very differently than the rest of my articles– much longer and more academic than the others…For other articles, please refer the right navigation panel of the site.>

It is one thing to rescue a sex trafficking victim, and it’s quite another thing to heal and restore a sex trafficking victim into proper functioning and into society. In light of the global problem of providing ample and effective aftercare to the millions that hopefully will be rescued out of the sex trafficking, I believe my study can help fill a gap in the existing body of research by addressing the topic of movement art as a therapeutic intervention for sex trafficking victims.

Movement arts/dance therapy has the unique potential of being particularly effective in the way it targets the body and the mind; meanwhile, finding ways to sensitively and effectively scale out this practice beyond the West, has the potential to be impactful. I will contribute to research examining aftercare shelters abroad, with a particular focus on examining what it takes to effectively democratize this intervention and transfer across cultural contexts, given the global nature of the sex trafficking industry and the resource limitations that we may encounter in aftercare settings.

The Proposal

In order to discover what a contextual approach to movement therapy look like in the Philippines sex trafficking aftercare setting, it will require traveling to the Philippines and finding out! My proposal is to partner with the Seattle based non-profit, “Arts Aftercare” and their partnerships with the Filipino aftercare shelters to host a set of movement art workshops and interactions with staff and sex trafficking survivors. The objective is to have a ‘train the trainer’ model where I work with my small team from the US to teach a basic movement arts workshop to a handful to aftercare staff members (from a few of the shelters in the Manila, Philippines area) at one main shelter and then take the rest of the week to travel to a few of the other shelters to see these staff members teach the sex trafficking survivors in their shelters. Inserted among this process will be plenty of individual and group interviews of both staff and the women living at the shelter to answer questions and to glean cultural and individual perspectives that will be so key to the qualitative exploratory research.

Another major outcome of this process is examining what are the principles of contextualization that we employ from cultural context to context when creating and employing movement based therapeutic practices. In other words, what are the elements that need to be considered if we want to contextualize a therapy so it works effectively within that different culture. What works in the West doesn’t translate perfectly to the East. But the transfer is still possible. In order to do that transfer, what structures, elements, adaptations need to be in place? What is success and how do you get there? This pertains to the cultural context of –for example, the US to the Philippines, but also US to Hong Kong, US to India, US to Bulgaria, etc. For a movement based therapy to translate across all these different cultural contexts, what needs to happen?

…And what factors contribute to the democratization of movement therapy as applied to an international aftercare setting for sex trafficking victims? When I refer to ‘democratization,’ I mean how do we take therapies that are empirically backed and formalized in the West (like DMT) and take it out of the ‘bubble’ of elite resources/education and share the elements that would be beneficial to an aftercare setting/population. In essence, it’s a ’lowering the barrier to entry’ to provide greater accessibility and sharing of best practices. I’m not saying we have all the answers here in the West. What I am saying is that we do have something to offer– whether it’s our empirical research or our formalization of practices– and as the West, we too need to join in on this “All Hands on Deck” mission to be a good global team player and collaborate!

Below is a more formal dissertation outline of the methodology I propose for this dissertation study:

Purpose Overview

<More on this in Dissertation Diary Part 1>

The purpose of the study is to explore the principles of contextualization that should be employed from context to context when creating and employing movement based therapeutic practices and the factors that contribute to the democratization of a movement therapy as applied to an international aftercare setting for sex trafficking victims.


Philosophical Worldview


It is out of passion for justice and a drive for tangible change that I pursue this dissertation work– After years in the corporate world, the bottom line in my mind will always be– what’s the ROI (Return on Investment)? With that frame of reference applied to the dissertation, I strongly desire that my dissertation turns into something tangible, ultimately helping the sex trafficking victim. I am not interested in writing a dissertation that sits in an academic bubble, and in a way using the plight of these victims to have a ‘sensationalized’ topic to write on…No, if this dissertation doesn’t have practical, tangible impact for the victim, I’m not interested!

That is also why I am so passionate about this topic– particularly examining the “democratization/scalability of western psychology interventions applied abroad”– if we can find a way to equip aftercare shelter workers who may not have the same level of training/education/resources with more ‘tools within their toolbox’ when working with the victims–this has the potential to impact the landscape of aftercare and forge new treatment.

In my ideal world, this dissertation will achieve the following changes in the lives of sex trafficking victims:

  • Serve as an additional piece of research that summarizes/clarifies the specific impact sex trafficking has on victims- somatically and psychologically–There really is scarce research on sex trafficking victims (seems to be more on only CSA, sexual abuse, trauma, dance therapy) including the impact of the experience on them as well as what interventions work most effectively. I may not be able to answer this completely since this is qualitative but can maybe start connecting the dots between sexual abuse literature and what we can assume is the impact on sex trafficking victims
  • Provide an approachable, easy to implement, additional ‘tool within their tool box’/therapeutic intervention for Aftercare shelter workers to leverage that is effective in unlocking victim’s trauma and faciliate more holistic body- mind healing. Make what would be really helpful available to the victim, beyond just traditional ‘talk therapies’
  • Generate new insight into what works and doesn’t work when you translate a Western intervention such as movement arts therapy to another cultural context and how to effectively do so….and how to translate that from one context to many other cultural contexts. The more dialogue we can have about this, the better because it really is an “All Hands on Deck” global predicaments that we have on our hands and we need to learn how to effectively collaborate

Because my study contains an action agenda for reform and centers around one of the most important social issues of the day, sex trafficking, I have selected the philosophical worldview of advocacy and participatory. My purpose is that this piece of research can bring tangible change to the lives of the participants and the aftercare institutions in which individuals work or live. I hope that the victims themselves will be the benefactors in this research, as I strive to provide a voice for sex trafficking victim participants who have been marginalized or disenfranchised, advancing an agenda for change to improve their lives and bringing them more accessible, effective interventions to usher their healing process. Through data collection, such as group and individual interviews with aftercare shelter staff and the victims themselves, my work is practical and a two-way collective ethnographic effort because the inquiry completed is designed to work with the victims/target population, rather than on or to others, as active collaborators (Creswell, 2013).



Derived from anthropological research, ethnography is an informative and interpretive study of a specific cultural or social group or system, based on data collected while the researcher is immersed in the cultural context and in the daily life of a social group, in order to more fully observe and understand the culture and perspective of the people with the primary question of “What is the culture of this group of people?” (Payne, 2004) (Cruz & Saber, 1998) (Patton, 2001). The core Greek word “ethnos” stands for “a people” or a cultural group (Patton, 2001).

Because of the culture oriented nature of ethnography that will help me examine factors of contextuality and cross cultural factors for creative interventions for international sex trafficking victims, I have selected ethnography as the qualitative research design for this dissertation study.

Although I will not have the opportunity to spend extensive time abroad immersing myself in the Filipino cultural context, I will make my work ethnographic in nature as I act as participant observer (Patton, 2001). For all the dance workshops, I will be in observation mode, allowing my team member, Karin Stevens (a professional dancer and choreographer from Seattle, WA who will be joining my team from the US) take the lead in teaching the workshops to the aftercare shelter workers and helping with the mechanics of supporting the staff to then teach the women in their shelters. This will free me up to note all observations. For the individual and group interviews with staff and the survivors, I will lead this and engage directly – asking questions and listening. In all of this, I will be careful not to enforce my own agenda. While staying sensitive to collect data that is pertinent to my research questions, I will be allow for ample space to explore and discover– there is no right or wrong answer. I envision this interaction time to be relational in nature and open-ended. I plan on staying attuned to listening and hearing what’s really there, instead of filtering it through an agenda.

Research Questions

The two primary research questions I will examine include:  What does a contextual approach to movement therapy look like in the Philippines sex trafficking aftercare setting?  What factors contribute to the democratization of movement therapy as applied to an international aftercare setting for sex trafficking victims?


The general demographic of participants for this study are Filipino women between 14-30 years old with a history of sex trafficking. The aftercare shelter workers will be any staff that works in a Filipino sex trafficking shelter, working directly with the women/girls residing in the shelter.

Research Design and Methodology

Workshop Description and Participants

In an effort to explore the factors of democratization in the Philippines aftercare context, I will conduct a small movement arts workshop at the Samaritana Philippines facility for staff (from 2 or 3 local aftercare programs) in the winter of 2013. I obtained access to these aftercare facilities and partnerships through my partnership with Seattle-based non-profit, Arts Aftercare, who previously did an arts therapy kit pilot with some of the same people in the
Philippines in 2011. This workshop will be followed by staff-taught workshops at their respective aftercare sites, with me and my small team helping to oversee and aid in the process. The proposed Philippines workshop would be conducting during one week sometime during the Winter of 2013 (Dec ‘13 or Jan ‘14).

There will be two phases of workshops—over a week timeframe. All events will only take two to three days in total to complete. The first phase is when I train the staff. This will occur in one aftercare program site, Samaritana, and staff from one or two other local aftercare programs will attend. The workshop taught by Renee would require one or two Aftercare Staff members from at least two to three local aftercare programs near Samaritana (total of three to six staff members).

For the workshop taught by staff, participants will include at least 10 female sex trafficking victims, ranging between 14-30 years old, at each aftercare program site. These women should be in a moderately stable condition (not recently rescued, etc.). The potential compensation for these participants will be a fun T-shirt or a little beauty sample kit from Sephora.

Lastly, there will be a small team from the US, including two other movement arts teachers and one videographer, will assist me as the lead in conducting this workshop and the interviews.


Materials needed for this research study will include any dancing props such as colored handkerchiefs, written instructions/curriculum to guide staff, an interview guide, an observation notebook, and any needed video gear. Additionally, I will bring a small team from the US to support.



The first movement arts workshop for staff to be taught by me and my team will be a one hour and 20 minute workshop broken into two 40 minute sessions with a break in between.  This will occur early in the week, such as a Monday or Tuesday, and the agenda will include  activities that involve various simple movement arts therapy exercises that are geared towards a beginner’s level where no dance experience is required.

Immediately following this movement arts workshop, my team and I will conduct a 90 minute group interview to discuss questions and feedback.

The group interview will include discussion and questions about the experience, factors of contextualizing movement therapy, and more logistical questions to ensure that everyone understands the instructions, etc.

In phase two, the aftercare staff will, in turn, train the women in their shelters.  This will occur across two to three local aftercare program sites

First, one movement arts 45-60 minute workshop for the women will be taught by staff. These will be scheduled in mid or late week (Wed-Fri) and sometime in the morning. My team and I will be present to observe, guide, and answer questions. This workshop will mirror the one in which the staff participated, and includes activities that involve various simple movement arts therapy exercises that are geared towards a beginner’s level (no dance experience needed)

Following the workshop and a break, there will be a 60 minute discussion group interview, led by staff. This group interview includes informal dialogue about the workshop experience with my team and I present to observe and interact. 

Following the group interview and a break, there will be 20 minutes for informal interviews with each of the 10 workshop participants after the morning workshop (scheduled two at a time throughout the afternoon). The informal interviews with these dyads of women will be conducted by the staff and myself. Interviews will be alongside one or two staff members to increase the participant’s comfort level and for potential translation purposes. The time will include informal dialogue about the workshop experience.  

My primary role as the lead researcher is as an observer, as I will not be the one teaching the workshops.

Sources of Evidence

For my study, there will be four primary sources of evidence. These four sources of evidence include the researcher’s observation journal, the individual and group interviews, observations through video, and information gathered from interviews with other international organizations doing similar work.

The  Researcher’s Observation Journal document will be used during the workshops and interviews for me as the primary researcher and  complete observer (without participating) to record thoughts, reactions, observations, and self-reflections of my experience as it occurs during the workshop and interviews (Creswell, 2013, p. 17).

An interview guide with about a dozen open-ended questions will be leveraged to seek to understand various aspects of the group and individual experience and participant meanings when conducting the face to face group and individual semi-structured interviews after the workshop (Creswell, 2013, p. 17). These interviews include the group interview with staff in phase one, group interviews with the women in the shelter, and individual interviews (two by two) in phase two. This serves as one of the means to collaborate with the participants and give them a voice to shape the discovery findings when exploring this study’s research (Creswell, 2013, p. 17).  

Observations will also be made through examining and transcribing the video tape of the workshop and the interviews after the week visit to the Philippines (Creswell, 2013). An observation journal will be used to note all observations such as body language and word themes.  

Lastly, interviews will be conducted with other international organizations who are leveraging movement therapy already with sex trafficking victims as part of their aftercare work. These interviews will be conducted over the phone with audio recording for about a half-hour, with two to three international contacts abroad to learn about their findings to my research question.

Because the participants in the aftercare locations are sex trafficking victims, it is imperative that we remain sensitive to their mental health condition, and do everything possible to protect their identity and personal information.


This study is a qualitative design, therefore the data will be collected and organized into categories and subsequently analyzed by me as the primary researcher to identify any patterns, relationships, or any emerging themes from data.

The researcher’s observation journal will be used during the workshops and interviews to record thoughts, reactions, self-reflections of the researcher’s experience during the workshop and interviews. To analyze this data, all notes will be coded and organized by observations to note any recurring themes, etc. All data is to be coded at the aftercare facility in order to stay in a setting in which the participants live in order to gain a proper understanding (Creswell, 2013). The final data will be represented into tables, graphs, and figures (Creswell, 2013).

The individual and group interviews after the workshop in phase one and two will also be transcribed and analyzed by also coding salient observations/themes. Interviews will be transcribed, read, and reviewed by the researcher in order. The first step in reading the transcriptions is to obtain a general sense of the information and reflect on the overall meaning, the general ideas reported by the participants, the tone of the ideas,  and the general impression of the overall depth, credibility, and use of the data (Creswell, 2013). I will then identify “meaningful units” or units within the transcripts that convey meaning, these “meaningful units” are then linked in order to allow the research to identify themes and patterns within the data. The final data will be represented into tables, graphs, and figures (Creswell, 2013).

Observations will also be made through reviewing and watching the video tape of the workshop and the interviews after the weeklong visit to the Philippines. An observation journal will be used to note all observations such as body language and word themes. The final data will be represented into tables, graphs, and figures (Creswell, 2013).

Interviews will be conducted with other international organizations who are leveraging movement therapy already with sex trafficking victims as part of their aftercare work. The interviews will be audio recorded and transcribed and analyzed by coding salient observations and themes. The final data will be represented into tables, graphs, and figures (Creswell, 2013).

Lastly, I will undergo a triangulation exercise to discover if particular findings from one source of evidence will be repeated across other sources to validate the accuracy of findings (Creswell, 2013). I will also incorporate personal values into the study (Creswell, 2013).

In keeping with the traditional methods of qualitative research, the researcher refrains from developing any hypothesis when collecting data and ensuring that data is being recorded in an unbiased manner to not impose assumptions or limitations on the data.

The general process of analysis will be as follows: I will take the raw data from my four sources of evidence such as transcripts/images/field notes, organizing and preparing data for analysis, reading through all data, coding the data (by hand or by a software program), then noting the emergence of themes and description, then analyzing how the themes are interrelated then subsequent interpretation of the meaning of themes and descriptions (Creswell, 2013, p. 185).  The codes will be developed to form a description or to identify themes and any surprising or unusual codes that were not anticipated in the beginning of the study will be noted and a qualitative codebook—a table or record that contains a list of predetermined codes that researchers use for coding the data – may be used (Creswell, 2013).

The basis for interpreting the analysis will be based on an action agenda to drive for tangible improvements or insights about the factors of democratization and contextualization in order to improve aftercare interventions for sex trafficking victims (Creswell, 2013).The final data will be represented in a variety of formats such as tables, graphs, and figures (Creswell, 2013).


Creditability, Validity, and Reliability

In light of ensuring qualitative validity, I, as the researcher, will check for the accuracy of the findings by employing certain procedures such as triangulating different data sources (Cresswell). To ensure sufficient construct validity for this study, I will collect data from the appropriate target audience and inquire about relevant research questions. This study will measure and correlate correctly with the construct this study originally purports to measure.

I will strive to guarantee sufficient external validity by exploring some of the perspectives that exist about the research questions which will contribute to the broader understanding of perspectives on this topic as applied to aftercare settings world-wide. The findings from this study should be reasonably expected to apply to the target population of the study.

To ensure reliability, I will provide sufficient detail and information for this study’s research design so that it could be replicated easily by another researcher. Reliability will be ensured by checking transcripts to ensure accuracy against transcription mistakes, making sure there is no drifting from the original definition of the codes, and potentially leverage cross checking codes developed by different researchers(intercoder agreement)  (Creswell, 2013).

I confirm sufficient research credibility because of my following experience, credentials, and characteristics as a doctorate student in Psychology/Counseling, Research Methods I-III, 15 years of dance experience (ballet training, choreography, dance production, solo performance), APA member, practicum experience counseling at a women’s shelter—majority with sexual trauma or trafficking history.


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