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Expanding The Circle Of Capacity

Expressive and Somatosensory Approaches to Trauma

Traumatized individuals are often either in mind-body states of anxiety, worry, panic, and hyperarousal or are numb, withdrawn, fearful, collapsed, or dissociated from others and their environment. Survivors of chronic trauma may fluctuate between these states or even experience both simultaneously. As a result, many individuals often become alienated from their ability to experience a sense of mastery, empowerment, and self-efficacy in both body and mind. They may no longer feel the reparative moments of joy, playfulness, curiosity, and enlivenment necessary to full repair and recovery from trauma.


How do we address these powerful experiences of suffering and internalized pain that often include moments of shame, guilt, or moral injury? Most trauma specialists are familiar with the framework known as “window of tolerance.” But how do we help individuals move beyond “tolerating” to replacing pain and suffering with positive sensations that eliminate fear and distress? This session will focus on an alternative model that integrates somatosensory (sensory integration and somatic therapy) and expressive arts therapy through a “Circle of Capacity” framework (Malchiodi, 2021). How a focus on capacity supports key factors of self-regulation, co-regulation, resilience, self-compassion, enlivenment, curiosity, play, and joy is explored through conceptual frameworks, best practices, and emerging research in trauma and related fields.

On-Demand Conference Recordings

Learning Objectives

1. Define the terms somatosensory psychotherapy and expressive arts therapy.

2. Define the Window of Tolerance framework as a form of evaluation in work with traumatized individuals.

3. Define the three key components of the Circle of Capacity framework.

4. Define why increasing capacity is key to addressing traumatic stress in clients with complex trauma.

5. Define the concepts interoception, exteroception, proprioception, and vestibular function as foundations of capacity-building.

6. Identify at least three ways somatosensory and expressive arts therapy approaches specifically support capacity.

7. Describe how you will apply at least one capacity-building somatosensory-expressive practice in work with patients or clients.

Presented By

Cathy Malchiodi, Ph.D

Cathy A. Malchiodi, PhD, ATR-BC, LPCC, LPAT, REAT, holds a doctorate in Psychology with a specialization in research and health psychology, and is a clinical mental health counselor, expressive arts therapist, and art therapist who has spent over 30 years working with individuals with traumatic stress and studying how the arts support reparation, integration and recovery from trauma. She is the originator of Somatosensory Psychotherapy® and Trauma-Informed Expressive Arts Therapy® and is the founder and executive director of the Trauma-Informed Practices and Expressive Arts Therapy Institute that trains mental health and health care practitioners in medical, educational, and community settings and assists in disaster relief and humanitarian efforts throughout the world.