Date of Award

Spring 5-19-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Elizabeth Kellogg


This capstone thesis investigates therapeutic benefits of circus arts, such as juggling, trapeze, acrobatics, and more, in the context of expressive arts therapy. Circus arts are inherently interdisciplinary, combining numerous creative modalities together, which makes them ripe for incorporating into intermodal expressive therapy. Likewise, the field of expressive arts therapy was built on a foundation of drawing in diverse perspectives and theories. In this paper, circus interventions are examined through the framework of three methods of engaging in creative therapies, which include arts as healing, arts as therapy, and arts in therapy. Literature reviewed on the subject includes history and current use of circus arts in social, educational, and therapeutic contexts. The paper presents existing research on an emerging field called “social circus,” or the use of circus arts for social change thought youth and community development, and other applications within occupational therapy, mental health, play therapy, and related interventions. Based on a study regarding anxiety reduction through juggling, a method is developed incorporating juggling into an expressive arts group in a women’s partial hospital program. Results of this intervention are presented through the author’s experience. The thesis concludes that circus arts fit well into the existing structure of expressive arts therapy, and offers comments on further possibilities for application and research.

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