Trauma-informed Dance Movement Psychotherapy: Understanding the Therapeutic Process and its Components

  • Caroline Galon

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The adverse and lasting effects traumatic experiences can have on individuals pose significant challenges to psychotherapeutic treatments. This is due to the profound impact trauma has on the body and mind of survivors which can result in a wide range of posttraumatic symptoms, The unique nature of traumatic memories, and the extent to which they can become engrained, can further complicate treatment considerations. Relevant literature suggests that Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) can be useful for treating survivors of trauma, due to its emphasis on embodiment and creativity that this modality offers. However, research to support this notion is currently limited. Furthermore, not enough is known about how the therapeutic process with survivors of trauma unfolds in the context of DMP. This thesis, therefore, aimed to identify the components of the therapeutic processes used in trauma-informed DMP as a step towards improving understanding of therapeutic practice with this client group. This thesis used hermeneutic phenomenology as the underlying methodology and epistemological position from which all findings and understandings were derived. It encompassed the following two strands: the first involved semi-structured interviews with practitioners who were experienced in treating survivors of trauma. To ensure a sufficient amount of data were collected, and due to commonalities between the DMP and Body Psychotherapy (BP) modalities with regards to the role of the body in the therapeutic process, participants from both of these professions were interviewed for the first research component. The second strand comprised a heuristic inquiry that utilised embodied and creative practice to synthesise the findings from the first strand, and elucidate further the components of the therapeutic process. Findings suggest that the therapeutic process for treating trauma comprises of several identifiable therapeutic elements, some of which were grounded in embodiment and creativity and appeared to be specific to DMP. A relationship was found between the concepts of �narrative?, �trauma-processing? and �ritual? while the notion of �joy? was identified as ii supporting and signifying positive change. Concepts of �witnessing? and �resourcing? were also identified. These were perceived by respondents to facilitate and support the therapeutic process with this client group. Applied embodiment and creativity were found to be empowering and seen to facilitate a manageable and paced access to traumatic material. The synthesised results of this thesis are presented as a map of the therapeutic process, and it is suggested that findings may potentially be transferable and useful for other treatment modalities. Overall, the results of this thesis enabled a fuller understanding of the role DMP can play in facilitating therapeutic processes with this client group. Furthermore, the current findings emphasise the contribution that DMP can make to the wider body of knowledge relating with psychotherapeutic treatment approaches to trauma.
Date of Award1 Mar 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorVicky Karkou (Director of Studies), Derek Heim (Supervisor) & DAVID PEIMER (Supervisor)


  • Psychological Trauma
  • Dance Movement Psychotherapy
  • Body Psychotherapy
  • Embodiment
  • The Therapeutic Process
  • Hermeneutic Phenomenology
  • Heuristic Inquiry
  • Qualitative Research

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