Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

MAE - Master of Arts in Expressive Therapies


Expressive Therapies


Donna Owens


In the recent turn toward a more trauma-informed practice of mental health counseling, a glaring gap remains between the research validating that trauma is a somatic experience and the continued privileging of cognitive and behaviorist interventions commonly used to treat trauma. In an effort to explore this gap, this paper presents a literature review inquiry into the neurophysiological and overall life effects trauma can have on the people who experience it. The review further explores how Stephen Porges’s Polyvagal Theory elucidates the benefits of using body-based therapeutic interventions in the treatment of trauma. The inquiry investigates the wide gap between the 25-plus years of research by leading trauma specialists such as Judith Herman, Peter Levine, Pat Ogden, Stephen Porges, Dan Siegel, and Bessel van der Kolk pointing to the somatic basis of trauma’s effects and the current commonly used behaviorist and cognitive models of intervention, such as CBT and exposure therapy. The paper further delves into body-based treatments and body-oriented expressive arts therapy interventions that have long been used to treat trauma, in hopes that expressive arts therapists will take to the task of implementing them more commonly in order to further the field of mental health counseling. Specific body-oriented interventions covered include: clay field work, Somatic Experiencing, Developmental Transformations, bi-lateral sensorimotor art therapy, trauma-informed play therapy, and polyvagal-informed dance movement therapy.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.




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