Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Raquel Stephenson


Examining the healing potential of neurobiological processes in art therapy with high risk youth who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) vitally needs to consider the neuroscience perspective of trauma. Practicing through a trauma-informed approach, there is a need to further investigate the impacts of art therapy for this population within the field of traumatology. Existing literature provides an understanding of ACEs, the neurobiological changes in functionality of the brain from toxic stress, the impacts on the brain, neurobiological processes in art therapy, prevalence of ACEs in high risk youth, and studies of art therapy with adverse childhood experiences in high risk youth contributing valuable insight in treatment and prevention. This paper examines the literature and discusses a method in a single group of 5 participants, aged 14-16, in a high risk youth setting who have been exposed to ACEs and exhibit problems in functioning impacted by ACEs. Through my experience and learning, results indicated that art therapy has healing potential in treatment for ACEs in adolescents as there are neurobiological properties in art evidenced through regulation and expression, the importance of resiliency, identifying coping strategies tolerating toxic stress, and the emphasis of the need for early intervention for this population. There is a need for further research as literature is limited and given the reality of ACEs as a growing public and mental health crisis.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.




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