Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Raquel Stephenson


Asylum seekers at the Southern border of the United States of America have experienced a number of complex traumas due to premigration experiences in their country of origin as well as anti-immigration laws that cause further oppression and discrimination. The intention of this capstone thesis is to examine how art therapy can ethically address the symptoms of trauma seen in asylum seekers and refugees in the United States. This literature review looked at arts-based and qualitative studies conducted in other countries as well as literature about trauma-informed treatment within the psychotherapy field in order to address the gap in the art therapy field’s research on the use of art therapy within this population in the United States. Themes of resilience and empowerment, identity and acculturation, and loss of home and safety emerged from the literature research and were explored in this capstone thesis. Based on the literature collected, the use of art therapy in conjunction with mindfulness, the expressive therapies continuum, child-parent psychotherapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and narrative exposure therapy are all approaches that have potential for creating an ethical art therapy program that can serve the needs of asylum seekers and refugees in the United States. Through this capstone thesis, I propose that a program integrating these approaches be established and that further research must be conducted in investigating the effectiveness of art therapy in ethically addressing the symptoms of asylum seekers and refugees in the United States.

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