Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Jessica Toft, Ph.D., LISW


Social Work


Survivors of sexual abuse state that the experience is harrowing, involving both their body and mind. Traumas like these stimulate the stress response and can result in disjointed memories within both the body and the mind. Working with the felt sensations of the body, in conjunction with more traditional talk based therapies, may help to create clarity within these disjointed memories. This systematic review was designed to explore the research question: What makes yoga a therapeutic intervention with survivors of sexual abuse? The review was set up using peer-reviewed articles and dissertations published after 2005. The databases PsycINFO, Alt HealthWatch and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses were systematically searched using the terms; “incest” or “rape” or “sexual abuse” or “intimate partner violence” AND “yoga” or “mindfulness” or “meditation” or “mind body therapy”. Out of these searches, 10 articles and dissertations satisfied criteria for inclusion and were used in the final review. Six themes emerged from the research synthesis regarding what makes yoga a therapeutic intervention with survivors of sexual abuse; 1) establishing a sense of safety, 2) providing choice and a sense of control, 3) addressing the relationship with the body and personal boundaries, 4) yoga and mindfulness as an adjunct treatment with psychotherapy, 5) the use of present mind thinking, and 6) accessibility and self-treatment. The research suggests the importance of including the body in therapeutic work with survivors of sexual abuse. Moving forward, more research is required with survivors of sexual abuse to better understand the therapeutic needs of this population. Exploring potential risks of this form of intervention as well as the relationship between yoga practitioner and mental health provider are also important areas for further study.

Included in

Social Work Commons