Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Donna Owens, PhD


Recent advances in battlefield triage have curtailed combat-related deaths, simultaneously increasing the rate of combat-related trauma, and thereby emphasizing the need for access to efficacious treatment of PTSD in returning veterans. Veterans who may have sustained life-ending injuries from concussive elements such as explosions are instead surviving with PTSD and its debilitating effects. Recent studies suggest that traditional methods of treatment such as medication and talk therapy, while useful, are incomplete tactics when it comes to treating non-verbal trauma. The burgeoning field of expressive therapies (expressive art therapy, dance, drama, art, music, writing, etc.) offers a new approach that is supported neurobiologically to treat the whole of the mind by engaging with the trauma at its root in the nonverbal brain. This thesis defines PTSD, its historical presentation and treatment in the military, and identifies stigmas of mental illness and barriers to care for veterans. The history of therapeutic uses of art and the new field of expressive therapy is presented, alongside current programs using these methods to treat veterans and their families.

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