Date of Award

Spring 5-2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Marital and Family Therapy

School or College

College of Communication and Fine Arts


This study documents an integrated mind/body approach to art therapy in the treatment of complex trauma and proposes a conceptualization of the process of neural integration of traumatic memory through art therapy. The researcher used a phenomenologically informed approach in a single case study design, culling data from 18 art therapy sessions with a child suffering from complex trauma. Using a data matrix, the researcher correlated verbalizations regarding somatic states and emotions with four categories of visual symbolizations. Emergent themes included seeking attachment repair; exposing attachment ruptures; experiencing traumatic memory as kinesthetic motoric process; dissociative coping mechanisms; behavioral control problems; and affect dysregulation. The researcher proposes a conceptualization of the neural integration of traumatic memory, mapping 12 associated neural and art processes. Outcomes subjectively documented include: better behavioral control; reduced somatic numbing; and improved affect regulation. Implications for the fields of art therapy and traumatology are discussed.