Course Description

We continually update our live webinar course content with readings, resources and links to relevant material. This curriculum will be live by August 15th, 2021. This live webinar course is given in a "drip format"-- each week you will have access to a new set of materials as we proceed through the topic, session by session. 

This course includes a Certificate of Completion for Polyvagal-Focused and Sensorimotor Expressive Arts Therapy for 18 hours of Continuing Education/Professional Development-- see information below. You can apply these hours to your completion of the EXAT or EXA-CE designations.

Webinars meet from 4:00 pm--7:00 pm Eastern US Time/New York Time

Course Meeting Dates:

September 16

September 23

September 30

October 7

October 14

Because we have participants from around the world, please be sure to check your time zone. 


Polyvagal theory is now informing the principles and practices of trauma-informed work. Stephen Porges is the researcher best known for identifying polyvagal theory; his studies and contributions have greatly expanded the understanding of how we sense and experience safety, self-regulation, attachment, and connection. 

Sensorimotor, sensory integration and body-awareness approaches are also now accepted strategies to address traumatic stress. The majority of these sensory-based approaches are derived from healing practices found in various forms of reparative and restorative expression-- often through movement, rhythm, sound, music, image making, and enactment. 

Most of the current polyvagal exercises and directives for trauma relief ask individuals to think about or imagine various vagal states or conditions for social engagement. While this may work well for some people, starting with cognition is not always the best place to start when restoring the self, post-trauma. Imagination, a mostly cognitive function, is not immediately or easily accessible for those most traumatized. In many cases, imagination and a sense of playfulness has been lost or diminished due to distress, anxiety, or dissociation.  

Expressive arts therapy and expressive strategies [movement, rhythm, sound, music, enactment, and image=making] capitalize on a "bottom-up" framework that begins with the senses. These strategies gradually reintroduce the experiences of play, creativity, and aliveness necessary to reparative and restorative imagination. These sensory-based approaches also provide a foundation for the "talk" that may have been shutdown due to traumatic stress. 

We designed this course to not only highlight these principles and practices, but also to demonstrate how expressive arts therapy and expressive methods expand and enhance polyvagal-focused and sensorimotor, sensory integration, and body-awareness approaches. To help participants learn and apply this material, each session includes didactic, informational presentations and at least one hour of experiential, hands-on time with methods and strategies. These action-oriented, sensory-based methods and strategies can be applied to work with individuals of all ages as well as families, groups, and communities. 


Continuing Education Information

Counselors/National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Trauma-Informed Practices and Expressive Arts Therapy Institute has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6557. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC are clearly identified. Trauma-Informed Practices and Expressive Arts Therapy Institute is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. 

Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Trauma-Informed Practices and Expressive Arts Therapy Institute is an Approved Continuing Education Provider by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Our Texas Provider Number is 2318.

Art Therapy Credentials Board [ATCB]. The ATCB recognizes a variety of CEC activities, including those in the areas of professional and mental health counseling. These activities are clearly outlined in their recertification standards provided to all ATR-BCs in their recertification year and on their website. A minimum of six CECs must be earned in the area of ethics each cycle. If you are licensed as an art therapist in your state, please check with your state board to verify what types of CEC activities are acceptable for license renewal.

California Marriage and Family Therapists, Social Workers and Professional Counselors. As of July 1, 2015, the State of California /Board of Behavioral Sciences [BBS] amended its regulations for continuing education providers to include National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) as a "board-recognized approval agency." If you are licensed as a marriage and family therapist, social worker, educational psychologist or professional clinical counselor in California, NBCC Approved Continuing Education Providers are recognized by the BBS to fulfill continuing education requirements. As of July 1, 2015, required CE hours can be accumulated through self-study and distance learning. 

Institute Faculty

Cathy Malchiodi, PhD

Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC, REAT holds a doctorate in psychology and is a licensed and board-certified art therapist and mental health counselor and has published numerous books, chapters, and articles in the field of art therapy including, Trauma and Expressive Arts Therapy: Brain, Body, and Imagination in the Healing Process, Creative Interventions with Traumatized Children, Breaking the Silence: Working With Traumatized Children, and Understanding Children's Drawings, which are standards in the field. She has trained counselors, therapists, and teachers throughout the United States, Canada, Asia, and Europe. In 2011, Cathy founded the Trauma-Informed Practices Institute to meet the need for professional education in the use of arts therapies, expressive therapies, mind-body approaches and resilience-building in trauma integration and recovery for children, adults and families. You can learn more about Dr. Malchiodi at her website https://www.cathymalchiodi.com/

Institute Faculty

Elizabeth Warson, PhD

Elizabeth Warson, PhD, ATR-BC, LPC, NCC, EMDR II, EXAT is the founder of American Indian Art Therapy, based on her faculty research associated with the Graduate Art Therapy Programs at George Washington University and Eastern Virginia Medical School (2004-2013). Elizabeth currently resides in northern Colorado where she maintains an equine-assisted and arts-informed private practice, Healing Pathways LLC. As a faculty member for the Trauma-Informed Practices & Expressive Arts Therapy Institute, she teaches in person and online poly-informed, equine-assisted, and bilateral stimulation/sensorimotor-informed expressive arts therapy courses. Since 2003, her research interests comprise stress and pain reduction interventions for American Indian cancer survivors and their family members, culturally responsive stress reduction and visual journaling, and trauma-informed interventions. Elizabeth is a recipient of a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts (folk and traditional art) for a community-driven Coharie Heritage Empowerment Project, focusing on cultural preservation. Elizabeth received her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1989 and an M.A. in Art Therapy from Vermont College of Norwich University in 1993. She completed her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a specialization in research, from the School of Education at Colorado State University in 2008. Elizabeth has presented at regional and national American Indian and Alaska Native conferences on topics related to medical art therapy, stress and pain reduction interventions, culturally-responsive art therapy, visual journaling interventions, and narrative-based art therapy. Her publications comprise over 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters in books. As a professional artist, she has exhibited her sculptural work nationally and internationally and is a recipient of an Ohio Arts Council fellowship award.

Course curriculum

  • 1

    Getting Started Before the Training

    • Why Polyvagal-Focused and Sensorimotor Expressive Arts Therapy?

    • Syllabus, Goals and Objectives of this Course

    • Walkthrough this Live Webinar Site and Its Features

    • Special Note About Materials and Expressive Arts Assignments

    • What is Expressive Arts Therapy?

    • About the Content of this Course

  • 2

    Session One: Sensorimotor Expressive Arts Therapy: The Foundations

    • The MSSS Model of Expressive Arts

  • 3

    Session Two: Connecting Sensorimotor Expressive Arts Therapy and EMDR

    • Resensitizing the Body Through Expressive Arts

  • 4

    Session Three: Polyvagal Theory and Expressive Arts Therapy: The Foundations

    • Interoception and Exteroception: Knowing the Senses

  • 5

    Session Four: Polyvagal-Focused Approaches and Autonomic Mapping

    • Window of Tolerance Graphics

  • 6

    Session Five: Polyvagal-Focused Expressive Arts Therapy Approaches: Connection to Something Greater Than the Self

    • ‘Standing in Awe’: The Effects of Awe on Body Perception and the Relation with Absorption

  • 7

    Session Six: Final Readings and Resources and the Road to Your Certificate!

    • Bonus: Pandemic Paradox and Polyvagal Theory-- a Perspective from Stephen Porges

    • After Session Six...Share Just One Thing

  • 8

    Final Steps to Your Certificate for Polyvagal-Focused and Sensorimotor Expressive Arts Therapy

    • Final Steps to Your Certificate