Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

MAE - Master of Arts in Expressive Therapies


Expressive Therapies


Chyela Rowe, Ph.D., RDT/BCT


This literature review explores current research about the use of expressive therapy methods in parent-child dyadic treatment, with a focus on attachment-based healing for children’s trauma treatment. I aim to answer the following question: how can expressive arts therapy be used to enhance nonverbal communication, foster attunement, and deepen connection between parent and child as an integral part of a child’s attachment-based trauma treatment? Children have an inherent need for an intimate emotional bond with a primary caregiver during the first few years of life and this early attachment relationship sets a foundation for mental, emotional, and physical health throughout the lifespan. Therapy for children who have experienced attachment-based trauma is centered on building supportive, safe relationships with an attuned adult; this often takes the form of dyadic therapy in which the therapist works with the child and parent to strengthen their relationship. Quantitative, qualitative, and art-based studies about dyadic art therapy, music therapy, and dance/movement therapy approaches were reviewed in-depth. The results demonstrated many positive impacts of dyadic expressive therapy for improving mental wellbeing and developing more attuned connections between parents and children, though most of the studies discussed did not specifically focus on traumatized children. Recommendations are made for further empirical research about multimodal dyadic expressive arts therapy, dyadic expressive therapies for attachment trauma, and longer-term studies.

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