Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


With the primary purpose to extend therapists’ knowledge base, open dialogue on treatment efficacy, and stimulate creative yet effective interventions, this two-phase qualitative study pursued the guiding research question, How do creative arts therapists use embodied interventions in the treatment of psychological trauma? Phase One of the study was conducted with music therapists who had extensive experience with trauma and reported on their experiences with and awareness of embodied trauma treatment through a broad spectrum of creative modalities. Phase Two was grounded in theories of body awareness and creative arts therapy applications and included therapists specializing in music, dance/movement, art, drama, or expressive therapies modalities. This dissertation focuses on a presentation of the data analyzed during the study’s second phase. Seven creative arts therapists participated in Phase Two of the study. Participation entailed semi-structured, 45- to 60-minute interviews. Thematic qualitative data analysis revealed seven themes and nine subthemes, which are examined under the categories of factors in facilitation and interventions. Factors in facilitation include (1) a client-centered approach, (2) safety,(3) sociocultural factors, and (4) therapist resources. The themes categorized as interventions are (5) somatic awareness and interventions, (6) relational enactments, and (7) creative interventions. Themes of safety, sociocultural factors, and a client-centered approach pointed to participant support of a flexible, individualized approach to trauma work based on clients’ specific needs. Participants noted the need for sufficient therapist resources when treating trauma, which led to subthemes of clinical supervision, personal therapy, and individual creative exploration. Participant awareness of clients’ bodies as well as somatic countertransference led to somatic interventions. Participants also examined enactments inside the therapeutic relationship and included multiple forms of creativity in the treatment process. Outcomes may contribute to future research into multi-modal creative therapeutic treatment, client-centered approaches, and embodied trauma interventions.

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