Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Dr. Ara Parker


This critical review of the literature aims to evaluate the extant literature on the role the Expressive Arts Therapist plays in promoting prosocial behaviors in children and adolescents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It further inspects the quality of the therapeutic relationship, its specific applicability to work with an Expressive Arts Therapist, as an agent of change in sociability in youth who struggle with socialization. Per the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013), ASD is characterized by core deficits in social interaction, communication, and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Existing treatment methods such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and social skills training emphasize behavioral change, however, do not address the relational skills necessary for successful social interaction. Expressive Arts Therapy (ExAT) and its efficacy in promoting prosocial behaviors in youth with ASD is reviewed. The therapeutic relationship between an Expressive Arts Therapist and youth with ASD is hypothesized as being more effective than non-expressive arts treatment methods in promoting prosocial behaviors. ExAT provides opportunities to foster connection between client and therapist via nonverbal communication, a means conducive to social limitations characterizing ASD. Future application of the combination of visual art, dance/movement, drama, and music will benefit the field of ExAT in addition to providing benefits for youth diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.




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