How Art Therapy Can Help Survivors of Trauma Access an Embodied Sense of Safety: A Literature Review
Date of Award
MA - Master of Arts
Raquel Stephenson, Ph.D., ATR-BC, LCAT
Traumatic stress can disrupt systemic rhythms in the brain and body that enable a person to feel safe in the world. Therefore, the initial phase of trauma treatment must focus on establishing an embodied sense of safety. This literature review examined cross-disciplinary data to assess whether art therapy can help trauma survivors access an embodied sense of safety, and if so, what therapeutic mechanisms contribute to its effectiveness. The data indicated that trauma-informed art therapy can support an embodied sense of safety through activating key therapeutic factors that downregulate instinctual defense mechanisms which can occur as a result of traumatic stress. Results revealed seven therapeutic factors that contributed to feelings of safety: therapeutic alliance; group belonging; synchrony with the natural world; affect regulation; sensory integration; a positive emotional state; and a sense of agency. Additionally, the paper outlines specific art therapy interventions that exemplify each therapeutic factor, and mechanisms that can illuminate how these therapeutic factors support an embodied sense of safety.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Ripley, Catherine L., "How Art Therapy Can Help Survivors of Trauma Access an Embodied Sense of Safety: A Literature Review" (2023). Expressive Therapies Capstone Theses. 671.
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