Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Elizabeth Kellogg


Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are circumstances that occur in a child’s life which are either long-lasting or have long-lasting effects due to their traumatic nature. Developmental trauma is a composite name for the effects of adverse childhood experiences on children. It has been found that, across racial groups, in locations with high poverty, children are more at-risk for scoring high (four or more) on the ACE questionnaire (Choi, Wang, & Jackson, 2019, p. 1). Treatment for developmental trauma begins with establishing a sense of safety in the child, but also within the family and the community. It is also important to build personal, familial, and community resilience in order to combat, or even override the effects of adverse experiences.

Expressive Arts Therapy provides easy access to parts of the brain that store emotion, memory, and sensation, all necessary for treating developmental trauma effectively. Expressive Arts Therapy is uniquely situated to provide individual, family, and community connectivity and relational healing within a systems approach because most art forms are scalable. The efforts that currently exist to provide community-level care to families at-risk for developmental trauma must begin to incorporate Expressive Arts Therapy in order to be more fully effective. Expressive Arts Therapists should get involved at the systemic level and develop programs that wrap around the whole family and the whole community toward reducing instances of developmental trauma in children.

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