Creative Arts Therapies Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Art in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling (MA)


Creative Arts Therapies

First Advisor

Imus, Susan

Second Advisor

Downey, Laura

Third Advisor

Young, Jessica


dance/movement therapy, sexual trauma, survivors, rape-crisis, neurological


The purpose of this clinical case study was to explore and describe how a neurological experience of safety was fostered for survivors of sexual trauma in dance/movement therapy sessions at a community-based rape-crisis counseling center. This study focused on how the theories of trauma-informed therapy and dance/movement therapy were applied to clinical practice with survivors of sexual trauma in order to shift them out of trauma-related responses. Reflections on this process were captured via structured and narrative journaling, which was then synthesized by highlighting and interpreting common themes that emerged. Findings indicated that externalizing trauma-related responses using symbolic imagery and movement, orienting to the external present moment, and befriending the body and its internal processes have been shown to promote feelings of safety and connection within the body of survivors. Additional findings revealed that the therapist’s attunement and non-verbal containment of survivors’ trauma-related responses through the therapeutic movement relationship was a key component in enabling them to navigate through these responses into a felt sense of internal safety. Implications of this study included the importance of engaging survivors in their creative processes to increase their awareness of and shift their relationship to trauma-related responses, as well as the importance and centrality of the therapeutic movement relationship in facilitating a neurological experience of safety. 37 pages.