Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

MAE - Master of Arts in Expressive Therapies


Expressive Therapies


Karen Estrella


Humor and trauma share two characteristics: they are both perspectival in nature and hold incongruity at their core, however, their impacts are profoundly different for the perceiver. As humor and laughter open one’s psyche and invite positive social exchanges, trauma produces more dissociative, dysregulated and dysfunctional interactions. While fundamental to interpersonal experiences, there has been limited research about the use of humor and laughter as essential tools within the mental health therapeutic alliance. Neurological research and case studies have shown that humor and laughter can have hormonal, physiological and psychological benefits. Due to the perspectival nature of humor and trauma, attunement within the therapeutic relationship is vital for personal transformation. Here, the opportunity is offered to synthesize verbal and non-verbal expression through decentering and play methods that incite humor and laughter and aid the transformation of debilitating associations with past traumatic experiences into perspectives of self-awareness, self-empowerment and an acknowledgment of resilience. The trauma-informed treatments, like the ARC Framework, provide a safe and solid foundation where expressive arts therapy and therapeutic humor can be utilized. Thus, the findings of this capstone thesis recommend further investigation into the intentional implementation of therapeutic humor within the expressive arts therapy approach especially when working with adult survivors of developmental trauma, to cultivate attunement between the therapist and client.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.




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