Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Cynthia McRae, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Antonio Olmos-Gallo

Third Advisor

Ruth Chao

Fourth Advisor

Nicole Nicotera


Complex trauma, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Yoga, Yoga psychotherapy


Neuroscience findings support the need for trauma treatments that work from the lowest levels of the brain up to the highest levels of the brain (Perry, 2009) due to evidence that the inverse relationship between amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex is not as strong in individuals who have experienced trauma, leading to difficulty in inhibiting fear responses through cognition (McRae, Ochsner, & Gross 2011). Difficulties associating language with traumatic events have also been found (van der Kolk, 2006). The integration of mindfulness practices and the popularization of yoga in the West have led to use of yoga to address trauma as a mind-body intervention capable of downregulating the bod's stress response (Mitchell et al., 2014). Van der Kolk and colleagues (2014) found 52% of women assigned to a yoga group no longer met PTSD criteria. Limited data is currently available in the literature regarding yoga treatment of PTSD with youth.

This embedded mixed methods study expands the literature by evaluating group data regarding a yoga psychotherapy group based on the Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse with Yoga (HCSAY; Lilly & Hedlund, 2010) curriculum as an adjunctive treatment for trauma conducted at two outpatient programs. Data were collected at pretest and post-test through questionnaires. Qualitatively, data were collected through a weekly Yoga Experience Form completed during the group, follow-up interviews, and the author's field notes. The Yoga Experiences Form was designed to help participants reflect on the themes and awareness gained in the group. The quantitative questionnaires measured both general symptoms through the Youth Outcomes Questionnaire-Self Report (YOQ-SR; Wells, Burlingame, & Lambert, 2005) and trauma-related symptoms through the Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS; Foa, Johnson, Feeny, & Treadwell, 2001). In addition, participants' beliefs in the group's themes were assessed through the Affirmation Questionnaire developed by the author.

Outcomes were evaluated using repeated measures ANOVA and content analysis. Findings indicated that yoga was helpful in decreasing behavioral, mood, and avoidance symptoms associated with trauma. Similar gains were seen in two samples with differing levels of symptom severity across mental health symptoms, though the group with higher initial symptom severity demonstrated a smaller decrease in trauma-specific symptoms. While the physical postures were discussed most frequently as respondents' focus about what was helpful and difficult about the group, over half the group members also noted that components of the breath work were helpful and 39% noted that the meditative and mindfulness components were helpful. Themes related to safety, strength, trust, and community had the most impact for participants. Overall, while trauma presents differently in youth than in adults, the findings from the current study are similar to recent findings from studies with adult female survivors of trauma that suggest yoga is a helpful adjunct to talk therapy.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Melissa Eileen Houser

File size

243 p.

File format





Psychology, Mental Health, Psychobiology