Date of Award

Spring 3-6-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Rebecca Zarate


There are women who are survivors of abuse who aren’t receiving the appropriate therapeutic treatment. These survivors are not healing from their trauma that is held in their bodies. This is a literature review on the polyvagal theory, and the expressive arts in therapy with women who’ve been abused while also integrating intersectionality. The review further explores the most appropriate ways to implement the polyvagal theory in therapy with survivors, as well as the expressive arts. The review explores body-oriented therapeutic interventions as well; Specific interventions include, autonomic art mapping, show and tell, musical mapping, and movement, which the body is the main focus. Emotional and artistic expression helps survivors of abuse cope with the psychological effects that was caused by the abuse. Major search terms used were, polyvagal theory, women, abuse, expressive arts, and body-oriented psychotherapy. Findings from the review revealed three major themes/approaches to be beneficial, which were the body, polyvagal theory, and expressive art therapy. The polyvagal theory and the expressive arts, combined, are a great tool for allowing survivors to be more present in their bodies and to be able to self-regulate, by understanding where they find themselves in their bodies when they are triggered. Conclusions show a potential model of treatment that can be offered for this population.

Creative Commons License

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




The author owns the copyright to this work.