Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

MAE - Master of Arts in Expressive Therapies


Expressive Therapies


Rebecca Zarate


The lived experience of incarceration isolates, disconnects, and retraumatizes women. Correctional mental health services fall short of adequately accounting for the pervasive histories of trauma and victimization that characterize the lives of most women prior to arrival in prison. The immediacy of the need to address this issue is underscored by steadily climbing rates of incarceration for women. The expressive arts are uniquely suited to the correctional environment wherein they provide alternative outlets for emotional expression, often stigmatized and perceived as unsafe. This research explored the use of a group expressive arts therapy method integrating psychodrama, visual art and collaborative poetry to enhance connection and ameliorate the negative impacts of incarceration among inmates with serious mental illness and histories of trauma. The method was implemented in a milieu treatment setting at a women’s medium security prison. Participants engaged in two hour-long sessions facilitated by a third-year expressive arts therapy intern. The method focused on the enhancement of perceived intra- and extra-institutional relational connection. Participants demonstrated new insight into their relationships, engaged in prosocial behavior and implemented problem-solving skills through the visual art-making and creative writing processes. The method elicited positive memories of past treatment and group engagement and reinforced the strength of current relational bonds. This research has implications for future use of the expressive therapies as means for better serving the gendered needs of incarcerated women with mental illness and histories of victimization.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.




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