Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Dr. Ara Parker


This thesis, in the form of a literature review, seeks to find how emerging therapists can nonverbally communicate safety within a group therapy session. In considering the target population, this thesis looks to focus specifically on children who have experienced trauma and may not have much experience recognizing the signals contextualizing safety. While therapists cannot guarantee ongoing safety, how are feelings of safety and trust in service of a therapeutic relationship developed? This research includes a review of literature in the areas of dance/movement therapy theories, trauma theories, polyvagal theories, and communication research. In this thesis, the term nonverbal communication includes any and all ways of creating communication and relating with methods other than verbal language. Many theorists have pointed to how the therapist’s presence specifically affects the client’s therapeutic experience. More specifically, these theories point to the need of established and perceived safety for clients in order for relationship building and healing to develop within a therapeutic context. Dance/movement therapy, as a means of intervention, is uniquely situated to aid in the process of communicating safety and healing trauma.

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