Date of Award

Spring May 2011

Access Restriction

Campus Access only Research Projects

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.