Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

MCM - MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling


Expressive Therapies


Rebecca Zarate


This capstone thesis project explored the potential for dance/movement therapy (DMT) to be an accessible and effective treatment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) that have been impacted by trauma. People with IDD are more vulnerable to adverse life events than the neurotypical population. Past research has largely used treatment designed for neurotypical people who communicate and interpret life events in different ways than people with IDD. The expressive arts therapies, and DMT specifically, have the potential to create a positive embodied experience for people with IDD that have been impacted by trauma. The current method consisted of one DMT session at an expressive arts therapy center with a group of teenagers, both neurodivergent and neurotypical. Themes that emerged from the intervention as a whole included joy, well-being, engagement and accessibility. Sub-themes that emerged from creative movement tasks in the intervention included autonomy, weight, awareness, and self-care. The use of DMT techniques in a playful format is a starting point to meet people with IDD where they are and lessen the impact of trauma.

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