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Archive for the ‘nonverbal communication’ Category

In this, the first of a series of dance/movement therapy lectures produced for the public by the American Dance Therapy Association, Dr. Christina Devereaux explains the unique capacity of dance/movement therapy to work directly with the core deficits of autism.

It is important to note that there are many sources on the internet and on Youtube that casually use the term “dance therapy” or “movement therapy” for their dance classes. There is a difference between a dance class that produces “therapeutic” benefits and the mental health profession of “dance/movement therapy.” Dr. Devereaux is a board certified dance/movement therapist and an expert in this field (check out her bio on the YouTube video page!)

An excerpt from her talk:

“There is a true reality here. The lack of social reciprocity from children with autism as well as their behavioral disturbances and language deficits, tends to make this disorder difficult and stressful for parents in a manner that is different from other developmental disorders. Parents rely as much on the child’s communication signals as the child relies on the parent’s signals. So, the loss of this engagement and intentional, interaction can feel devastating. Unfortunately, there is no treatment right now that can address the “biology” of autism, but dance/movement therapy can certainly directly address this deep “human effect” of autism. By helping parents experience how to attune, join, connect, and understand their child through the use of nonverbal language, Dance/movement therapy can support parents in forming warm, empathic and satisfying relationships with their children.”

April is Autism Awareness Month. If you know someone who would benefit from this information, please share. Relationships matter. Dance/movement therapy can help.

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I could write an infinite number of blog posts with this very title and each one quite possibly could include video or movement description unlike any of the posts before it. That said, there is a video currently circulating the social media sphere that has beautiful footage of dance/movement therapy.

It is worth every moment of the seven minutes it takes to watch it and I have linked it below for your viewing convenience.

As a preface, I must remind you of some basic truths of dance/movement therapy:

Neither the dance/movement therapist nor the client knows ahead of time what will transpire in the impending session. Even within a structured format, the experience is unpredictable. Guided by the present moment, the process is unique to the persons involved, their needs and the treatment goals.

Dance/movement therapy is an improvised process – both 1:1 and in a group setting. It begins “where the client is at.” Ten dance/movement therapy sessions with the same person might start differently each time and may “look” different each time. Dance/movement therapists respond to the movement and words (yes, dance/movement therapy involves talking too!) that emerge in the PRESENT MOMENT. The present moment is beautiful, mysterious, surprising… It can be extremely powerful and it is worth every bit of attention it is given.

I must also underscore that dance/movement therapy is NOT a dance “class.” This is a distinction that is growing ever more important to convey as more and more people worldwide declare dance or Zumba®, for example, as their “therapy.” Dance is ABSOLUTELY therapeutic and inherently healing. But “dance/movement therapy” is a clinical practice, facilitated by trained mental health clinicians with masters or doctoral degrees. It is essential that this distinction be understood and observed. (Please see An Invitation to Those Making the World A Better Place Through Dance for further clarification on that distinction.)

by Corporación Dunna -alternativas

Below is wonderful footage of dance/movement therapy being introduced into cities in Colombia to counter the trauma of violence and conflict and to facilitate empathy and connection. The movement is interspersed with brief interviews with the facilitators and students learning the methods. (It is in Spanish but has English subtitles. Even so, movement is a universal language and the dancing speaks volumes regardless of your native language.)

So, as I declare “YES! This is what dance/movement therapy looks like!” I simultaneously ask that you remember that other dance/movement therapy sessions do NOT look like this. (In fact, if you’d like to compare and contrast two very different videos, please see my previous post to view dance/movement therapy with hospitalized children.)

As you watch this video, perhaps questions will arise for you:
What is happening?
How does that process evolve?
How is it not a “class”? It looks like a class…
(I intend to dedicate an entire post to answering this particular question so stay tuned…)

I would genuinely love to answer your questions. Please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section. If YOU have that question, somebody else likely does too. 🙂 Ask away.

by Corporación Dunna -alternativas

TO WATCH VIDEO, PLEASE CLICK THIS LINK:
Dance/Movement Therapy as a tool for achieving peaceful coexistence and reconciliation in 5 vulnerable cities in Colombia

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This week (July 23-28) DanceAdvantage.net invites the world to participate in a social media based campaign united on the importance of dance: “Why Dance Matters.”

My dance/movement therapy colleague, Donna Newman Bluestein, has done this exquisitely well in her blog, Musings of a Dance/Movement Therapist. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read her post. You can bet I will be quoting her words for a long time.

I, however, am finding it harder to describe the power of dance as she has, so summarily and eloquently. My response seems to be emerging in vivid memories – moments that have stood the test of time over the decades and remain in my consciousness, reminding me of the power of dance to enliven, to connect, to pierce isolation. To express – joy, grief and everything in between. To not only encode memory but also evoke it.

If only I could provide a YouTube link to these unforgettable moments etched in my bodymind. Alas, I will attempt to rely on clumsy and inefficient words to describe what dance does so effortlessly. (Ah yes, how could I forget that one: dance communicates. Dance communicates what even the most skilled wordsmiths can only silhouette.)

And so, I offer these mere silhouettes and hope they do some justice in verbally conveying what was first experienced, so perfectly, nonverbally.

~~ Why Dance Matters ~~

As I reflect on these words, one of the first images that floods my mind is that of me dancing the Two Step with my grandfather and the Schottische with my grandmother at rural community dances when I was a young child. My grandfather passed decades ago and my grandmother is now an amazing and vibrant 90. Those moments of physical touch, of loving gazes from twinkling eyes, of our laughing and moving together will always remain in my heart and bring joy and comfort to me all my life. To have danced with my grandparents…

~~ Why Dance Matters ~~

Every week I enter a room at some psychiatric hospital, prepared to lead a dance/movement therapy group with inpatients who are in crisis. As I enter, I witness withdrawal, disconnection, paralytic depression, isolative preoccupation. Often those with thought disorders are talking to themselves or imagining some delusional yet terrifyingly real threat to their personhood. Attempts at facilitating a group discussion are. . . well, mere attempts. Focus, interaction, listening, organized verbal expression: all these things are nearly impossible to facilitate amongst such a diverse group of individuals challenged with such severe psychiatric symptoms.

But the dance…

The music plays and an ever-surprising, inspiring and magical dance emerges that I feel blessed to witness and partake in every time. I never know how one patient will respond or who will be inspired by whose movement to express themselves in what way. But they do: Respond. Interact. Dance. Sometimes alone, almost always, eventually, with each other as one group. Maybe the group cohesion is only for a few moments but those moments are gold. The voices quiet (or at least are ignored for a bit), the isolation melts, joy – that ever elusive joy – is felt, embodied and expressed. Or perhaps there is sadness and despair or anger – but these feelings are permitted, embodied, symbolized, expressed. People are accepted for who they are and embraced. Nonverbally the dance says We are all welcome here and we have something to say and we shall say it with our bodies.
Every time. It is both commonplace and miraculous.

Every.
Time.

~~ Why Dance Matters ~~

Elsie. *

Eighty-something, she lived alone in an apartment in an enriched housing apartment complex. I did a portion of my dance/movement therapy internship there after grad school. Elsie would never leave her apartment for activities. In fact, she wouldn’t even leave for meals, often insisting the meals be brought to her apartment where she dined alone. But all I had to do was knock on the door and say “Elsie, there is a dance downstairs. Would you like to dance?” Her eyes would come alive with a fire and a joyous anticipation.

Well, let me just change my shoes…

She was the belle of the ball every time, even if our “ball” was only a circle of folding chairs in the tv room in the middle of the afternoon. She was there to dance.

And did she dance.

~~ Why Dance Matters ~~

There are so many other stories. . . patients frozen physically with severe Parkinson’s disease coming alive with dance like the Wizard of Oz’ Tin Man with his precious oil. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease – withdrawn, unable or uninspired to speak or connect– sharing stories with the group as their spontaneous dance movements evoke memories long since forgotten.

Every day I dance with someone there is a new story.

I cannot imagine my life without dance. I only began dance studio training when I was 16 but I’ve been a dancer in my heart since I was old enough to walk. I am not the most technically trained dancer but I am no less a dancer.

We are ALL dancers.

Donna, so brilliantly, writes in the above-mentioned post that

“While it is true that not every one feels comfortable dancing, it is only because of limiting cultural beliefs. If we taught otherwise, it would be otherwise.”

We ARE all dancers.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I have never known as much joy and aliveness as I have when I am dancing – on the musical stage, in the club, in my living room, in a Zumba class, with a lindy hop partner. I have never been so in the present moment as when I am in my dance. And now, as a dance/movement therapist I get to witness and experience the meaningful and, yes, at times life-changing impact of dance on my clients.

Dance is inherently healing – it always has been.

Why does dance matter?

Because it DOES.

We move in the womb. Our hearts beat a pulse. We respond to rhythm as babies with joyous movement even before we can walk. We only stop completely moving in this world when our lungs no longer inflate and our hearts stop beating.

To be alive is to move.

To dance is to be alive.

That is why dance matters.


(You can share your own reflections on Why Dance Matters on Twitter. Just use the hashtag #whydancematters. Also check out the Why Dance Matters Facebook page or the Why Dance Matters website for more ideas on how to get involved in this important campaign.)

* Name has been changed.

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Today I stood in front of my classroom of 93 college students and taught my lecture on nonverbal communication wearing no make-up.

An act worthy of a Congressional Badge of Bravery or just another day at the office? I guess that depends…

To many women, the mere idea of being in the spotlight wearing no make-up might instigate sensations not entirely unlike a panic attack.

To others, fewer in number likely, the idea of going au naturel is not out of the ordinary at all but an embraced way of life.

And to the men — well, they have never had to contemplate whether they could walk about the world make-up free, have they? Because men are “good enough,” as is. Or, at least, their eyelashes, skin tone and cheek color are good enough, as is. Ahhh… the double standard – a rich topic worthy of many an hour of discussion! I would love nothing other than to have that conversation over lattes with The Beauty Myth author, Naomi Wolf, herself! Someday perhaps …

But back to today:
Why did I choose to appear in public sans make-up?

This week (Feb 26- Mar 3) is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and today marked the start of “Barefaced and Beautiful, Within and Without,” a national campaign dedicated to promoting healthy body image. This campaign is sponsored by The Renfrew Center, a leader in the field of eating disorder treatment since 1985.

This campaign invites women everywhere to join together for one day and go make-up free to “promote a greater understanding that real beauty and self-esteem truly begin within.”

A noble goal, sure, but what does make-up have to do with eating disorder awareness?

Susan Kleinman, a board-certified dance/movement therapist with decades of experience treating individuals with eating disorders, speaks to this connection at length in the article, “The Connection Between Make-up and Mental Health.”

In a nutshell, people who suffer from an eating disorder also contend with a negative body image. A recent survey done by the Renfrew Center showed that almost half of women polled voiced negative feelings about themselves when they go without make-up. Kleinman distinguished between make-up worn as an accessory and makeup worn as a mask, perhaps concealing underlying feelings of inadequacy and shame.

There can be a connection and Kleinman connects the dots articulately in the article.

I’ll fess up. I was a bit anxious as this day approached. But just a little. My husband laughed at me lovingly as I did “not” get ready for work and told me I was beautiful. I told him he was very smart.

When I actually walked into my classroom today, make-up free, I had more confidence than when I walked in on the first day of the semester all dolled up to make a good first impression. On this day, at this point in my life, addressing my students bare-faced didn’t faze me.

But had I been sitting in one of those chairs as my 20 year old self, I don’t think I could have participated in the campaign. I certainly could not have when I was a teenager. High school and college were the years that I, myself, was battling my own eating disorder, bulimia. Those were the days when I would actually miss mandatory classes because I perceived myself “too fat” to be in front of other people – a dock to my permanent grade was excruciating but somehow less painful than letting others see me when I “knew” I looked disgusting.

When I remember that young woman, I wish I could go back in time and hug her. I wish I could look her in the eyes and convey to her that there is a way out of the cage. I wish I could tell her that she will someday be me, a woman who loves her body just as it is and loves herself, just as she is.

As I walked to my car after the class ended today I had a spring to my step. It was cold and windy and the rain had just stopped – the clouds hid any ray of sunshine. But I was invigorated. I felt light and the world around me looked glorious. I felt glorious.

Everyone across the country who participated today will have a unique and emotionally complex experience to reflect upon, undoubtedly. But my experience on this day was one of victory. Knowing on an embodied level, at long last, that I am enough because of WHO I AM rather than WHAT I look like is a triumph. It has been a long time coming.

I teach again tomorrow. I think I’ll forego the makeup one more day and enjoy 15 more minutes of sleep.

You know what, L’ Oréal? I’m worth it.

Barefaced and Beautiful, Without and Within!

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This is the question every dance/movement therapist gets – often.

For many people, “dance” is associated with ballet and tutus… or jazz hands and pom poms… or grinding on the nightclub floor. How would that way of moving be a psychotherapy, they wonder. While each of those dance expressions (and dozens more) are valid in their own right, they are not to be expected in a dance/movement therapy session.

One of the challenges of actually showing people what DMT looks like is the fact that DMT is done with patients and clients, not students. There are HIPAA privacy laws and rules of confidentiality and ethical considerations. Dance/movement therapy is a psychotherapy and crucial to the success of any therapy session is an atmosphere of psychological safety – a “safe space” within which to explore thoughts, feelings and the unconscious. A video camera with a red, glowing light does little to engender that feeling of safety.

But once in awhile, permission is granted to video and the resulting footage can go a long way to shedding light on our work.

Below is one such video.

Dr. Lori Baudino, a clinical psychologist and board-certified dance/movement therapist, pioneered the development of the first dance/movement therapy program at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. (I have also had the distinct pleasure of serving alongside Dr. Baudino on the Board of Directors for the California Chapter of the ADTA.)

In this video, Dr. Baudino explains how she uses dance/movement therapy, one on one, with children in the hospital. The footage might surprise you – the work is subtle. She comments about this, too, in her narrative. There are wonderful clips of Dr. Baudino establishing and building relationship with the children through attuning to their movements. Interspersed with the clips, she explains what she does.

Key to dance/movement therapy (as opposed to a dance class or a Zumba™ class) is the therapeutic relationshiop that exists between therapist and client. All movement expression that occurs does so within that relationship. Movement communicates. Dance communicates. The dance/movement therapist is uniquely trained to understand that communication, facilitate it and deepen it.

Surprised by anything in the video? Curious? Intrigued? Feel free to comment and I’m happy to continue a dialogue or answer any of your questions.

Also, if you’d like to read more about the use of dance/movement therapy in the medical field, the current President of the ADTA, Dr. Sherry Goodill, has written a comprehensive book on the subject: An Introduction to Medical Dance/Movement Therapy – Healing in Motion. It’s an amazing feat of scholarship. If you’d like to take a look inside her book, click here.

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March 20-26, 2011 is National Creative Arts Therapy Week!

In celebration of dance/movement therapy and other creative arts therapies, I pledge to post often this week, shining light on my esteemed colleagues all over the world who are facilitating healing through the creative arts.

Creative arts therapy modalities include dance/movement, drama, music, poetry, and art.

I have had the privilege of working with music therapists (both bachelor’s level and master’s level therapists) at various psychiatric hospitals. Some of my most memorable groups have been those that were co-facilitated with a music therapist, where not only the movement but also the live music itself were sculpted by both of us in constant collaboration, in response to what the patients were expressing in the moment.

In celebration of my friends and colleagues who are music therapists, I would like to bring your attention to an independent film that is making its way across the country right now. The Music Never Stopped, an official 2011 Sundance selection, stars Julia Ormond (as a music therapist!) and is based on a true story.  The music therapist character is loosely based on a pioneer music therapist, Dr. Concetta Tomaino, who is now the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function.  In this press release, Dr. Tomaino speaks about the evidence based applications of music therapy:

“For example, with someone who has memory problems, particularly with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, we will use music of personal importance. Those emotions are then connected to deep memories that we can attempt to retrieve as they are exposed to that specific music. We also use rhythm to help people with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, or a stroke, to help people regain their ability to move, as well as a singing protocol that we use for people with strokes to help them regain the ability for speech. We’re using music in ways to reach people on a deep, clinical level.

…Something as simple as a beat or rhythm can stimulate and coordinate movement. The more complex the sound stimuli are, the more neurological functions are activated. If you think of networks in the brain being excited one network at a time, the more complex the sound that is stimulating those networks, the more heightened the response.”

As music and rhythm are also integral to dance/movement therapy (though not always used) the observations Dr. Tomaino speaks of are also seen in dance/movement therapy groups with these same populations.

The healing power of music and movement and rhythm and embodied awareness/expression is profound. I am so proud to be a part of the dance/movement therapy profession and the greater creative arts therapy community. We are all pioneers!

Here’s to a week of celebrating the work of creative arts therapists everywhere!

More to come….!

(And in the meantime, why not catch a flick? Watch the movie trailer for The Music Never Stopped here. Perhaps it’s at a theatre near YOU.

Read about a music therapist’s perspective on the movie here.

 

 

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Let me put my cards on the table.

I started this blog two years ago out of a deeply felt frustration that I know is shared by many of my fellow dance/movement therapists. I know they share this frustration in some form or another because the topic and the discussion of ways to address it has been repeated – for years – in professional discussions, online forums and local and national dialogues. It is an ongoing issue for our professional community.

The frustration is this:

In the 21st century, how can it be that the profession of dance/movement therapy is not better known? Better understood? At the very least, heard of? Granted, if one is not working in the mental health or rehabilitation or wellness professions, then it is perhaps logical that the profession be an unfamiliar concept. Certainly, I have never heard of countless occupations. But, how can it be in the 21st century, over ten years since the “Decade of the Brain” concluded, that dance/movement therapy is not better understood by our colleagues whose professions involve psychology or neuroscience?

How is it that when one googles “dance therapy” on the internet, one gets more references to Brittany Spears and pole dancing or random dance classes than one gets legitimate information on the nearly 50 year old profession of dance/movement therapy?

This latest spike in frustration was inspired by the recent feature on Anderson Cooper 360 that took a close look at a day in the life of Gabrielle Gifford’s rehabilitation at the TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Texas.

How is it that when Dr. Sanjay Gupta visited the hospital to get a hands on experience of a day in the life of Congresswoman Giffords’ recovery, dance/movement therapy was not included in the diverse list of therapies? Yes, music therapy was on the day’s agenda and, to Dr. Gupta’s credit, he really appreciated the power of music therapy to work “on developing … attention, memory and overall executive function.” This acknowledgement on a show as respected and widely viewed as CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 is a real boost for our colleagues in the music therapy profession.

But dance/movement therapy was NOT on the schedule and it was not addressed by Dr. Gupta – by name. However, a quick glimpse at the video of the music therapist, Maegan Morrow, reveals that she was incorporating movement with the music to help her patients improve cognitively and learn to walk again. “Lean 2, 3, 4, Push up, 2, 3, 4…” The diverse therapies at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital work together to rehabilitate patients from traumatic injury… and yet the experts on using movement psychotherapeutically, who are specifically trained in connecting through movement and facilitating movement and rhythm – for whatever end goal – are not on that team?

“The brain learns best when it processes cognitive, affective and psychomotor information simultaneously.” (emphasis mine.)
Dr. Michael Merzenich
Neuroscientist

This is fundamental knowledge to neuroscientists and to anyone familiar with “brain-based learning.”

Movement is not only integral to healing psychologically, it is integral to effective rehabilitation of the brain, to learning and to brain plasticity.

Though my peers and I ask these questions – how, how, how can the world not know? – we do so, of course, acknowledging the onus is on us, the dance/movement therapists. This is precisely why I blog on DMT, why I encourage my colleagues to do the same and why I am writing a book on the topics of this blog.

Did you know:

Neuroscientists have declared the importance of psychomotor processing to learning.

The New England Journal of Medicine published that dancing, moreso than any other leisure activity, decreases cognitive decline in senior citizens over 75.

Physical therapists have published repeatedly on the therapeutic value of dancing the tango for people with Parkinson’s disease.

These are but drops in the bucket of research that RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT reveal the importance of dance and movement in our lives and yet… the official profession of dance/movement therapy remains in the shadows.

Compared to the combined fields that make up verbal psychotherapies (social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists) – and even to our allied creative art therapists – dance/movement therapists are still very small in number. We practice in countries all over the world but only have seven graduate programs in the United States where the dance/movement therapy master’s degree can be earned. There are additional ADTA approved “alternate route” programs for individuals who have a master’s degree in a related mental health field to get the requisite DMT training; even so, a handful of programs can only produce so many dance/movement therapists a year.

The simple fact of the matter is that at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, California in 2009, the leading psychologists and psychiatrists in the world presented, among other things, on the importance of acknowledging the body in psychotherapy: attending to bodily sensation, breathwork, moving, mindfulness, meditating. The handful of respected dance/movement therapists that attended with me sat, nodding, in agreement. Yes. Yes, we know. This is what we do. This is what we have done for over forty years.

The simple fact of the matter is that 10 million people worldwide are participating in Zumba® classes each week, many referring to it as their “therapy.” Television news stations are doing stories on the effect of Zumba® on its students and teachers alike, noting its therapeutic value in places as unusual as prisons. Again, though Zumba® is a fitness class and not dance/movement therapy, the fact that dancing is experienced as being “therapeutic,” even within the structure of an exercise class, comes as no surprise to those in our profession.

The world is discovering in its own ways that movement and dance and the bodymind connection are important. This is wonderful! This growing awareness should be shining an ever-expanding spotlight on the profession that has been implementing these truths in its clinical practice for decades. Dance/movement therapists have not just discovered the power of movement to evoke emotion… or heal trauma… or break through isolation… or express that which cannot be spoken… or garner insight… or connect with self, with others. Dance/movment therapists have an extensive body of research and theory that delves deeply into these subjects. Our expertise can be your expertise… if the dialogue begins.

We must be on the edge of a fusion, of an integration, of a collaboration between verbal psychotherapies, neuroscience, medicine and dance/movement therapy that will change the course of healing and wellness and recovery in this new century. We must be on that edge. I can feel it.

But the awareness has to spread so that the curiosity can pique and the collaborations can begin large scale.

Dance/movement therapy must go viral.

That is my challenge to you. Help spread awareness. The research and the experts are there to back it all up. What is needed is awareness.

How I wish the media would shed light – BIG LIGHT – on these stories – or simply look in their own communities for the stories that are happening there, right now:

Dance/movement therapists making breakthroughs with children with autism.

Dance/movement therapists teaching staff and caregivers essential nonverbal communication skills to more meaningfully connect with those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Dance/movement therapists empowering women in India who are survivors of human trafficking and sexual abuse.

A Dance/movement therapist helping child soldiers in Sierra Leone feel empathy again – and teaching others how to continue the work in their communities through dance.

A dance/movement therapist who has designed a movement based curriculum to help foster empathy and prevent violence in schools.

There is not enough light cast on this work nor on its potential to effect real change in the lives of millions of people across the globe.

Help shine the light.

If your life or the life of someone you love has been touched by Alzheimer’s, autism, bullying, cancer, trauma, Parkinson’s, mental illness, an eating disorder, body image issues, brain injury… if you have ever felt the power of dance in your own life, on some level, please pass this on.

Shine the light.

This is a “virus” the world desperately needs.

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