Thesis Title

Exploring Pathways Toward Psychobiological Safety through Mindful Body-centered Art Making with Sheltered Homeless Women

Graduation Date

Spring 2020

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


The primary goal of this research study was to explore the effects of a trauma-informed intervention on relaxation and body awareness in sheltered homeless women, where trauma history can be a pathway to homelessness, and the experience of homelessness itself can be traumatic. The study took place at three interim housing locations along the peninsula of the greater San Francisco Bay Area and utilized a quantitative quasi-experimental one-group pretest/posttest design with qualitative inquiry. Quantitative data was gathered via the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS) and a 10-item revised Scale of Body Connection (SBC). A brief closing questionnaire provided insights into this population and their experience of this intervention. Overall quantitative results suggest that participants experienced a significant reduction in distress toward ‘peaceful, calm, relaxed’ as a result of engaging in this research intervention. Results did not reflect a significant change to participants’ body awareness. Overall qualitative results showed a strong preference toward the mindful body-centered art making component of the intervention, participant insights relating to the value of self-expression and retaining a sense of control, and self-report increases to participants’ sense of calm, relaxation, and ease throughout this creative process. Over time, it is thought that regular engagement with mindfulness and art therapy would foster a return to more optimal arousal regulation and grounded body awareness in the context of trauma and chronic stress, while also promoting a sense of person-led empowerment.