Date of Award
MA - Master of Arts
Lee Ann Thill
Selective mutism (SM) is a rare, yet severe, anxiety disorder that affects primarily children. SM is characterized by a failure to speak in certain social situations (i.e., school), despite being able to speak comfortably in other settings (i.e., home). There is an ongoing effort to understand this diagnosis and best treatments are being debated. The therapeutic relationship is argued to be one of the greatest predictors of positive treatment outcomes, regardless of the diagnosis or treatment method; however, the failure to speak that characterizes SM impacts the development of a therapeutic relationship and that alliance cannot be formed using typical methods. Despite its significance, this topic has not been explored in the current literature. Expressive arts therapy offers many modes of nonverbal expression that could be beneficial to the development of therapeutic relationships with this population. Using the expressive therapies continuum as a framework for therapeutic activities, a method was designed to develop a therapeutic relationship with an 11-year-old girl with SM. Implemented in a therapeutic school setting, the method was conducted over six 30-minute sessions. Observations of the client and therapist suggest that expressive arts therapy may be beneficial in the development of a therapeutic relationship with a child with SM. Further research on this topic could improve treatment outcomes for children with SM.
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McLaughlin, Sophie, "Expressive Arts Therapy and Therapeutic Relationship with a Child with Selective Mutism: Development of a Method" (2022). Expressive Therapies Capstone Theses. 587.
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