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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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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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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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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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Kudos to both TimesUnion.com for publishing a story on the power of dance/movement therapy with autism and to Paul Grondahl for writing it.

"Dance movement therapist Rachelle Smith-Stallman works on developing trust with 4 year old Emil Bouget as he touches her eye, during a session at his home in Albany, on Tues, Oct 19, 2010. Bouget is autistic," according to Paul Grondahl in the October 23, 2010 timesunion.com. (Philip Kamrass/Times Union)

Parents of children diagnosed with autism are eager, desperate even, for interventions and therapeutic modalities that will help them connect with their child. Dance/movement therapy, over time, has helped many.

Grondahl’s article describes the impact of dance/movement therapy on a child with autism. I recommend reading it, but must do so with one caveat. I must differ with the reference made by Janine Cruiswijk to art and movement therapies as being “new” and “slowly becoming more accepted and mainstream.” Dance/movement therapy is hardly new; rather, dance/movement therapists have been pioneers of the mind-body interface for over five decades and have been acknowledged by federal and state agencies for almost as long, in research, funding, and licensure. The process that remains “slow,” tragically, is the public’s AWARENESS of our profession as a whole and the UNDERSTANDING of this psychotherapeutic modality that makes the body and its power to nonverbally communicate central to healing and deepening relationship. The tragic result of this lack of awareness is that reimbursement from insurance companies is not yet available in all places.

But every story helps spread awareness. With awareness comes the potential for understanding and, eventually, broader accessibility for those interested in DMT services but unable to pay for them out of pocket.

To her credit, Cruiswijk, the executive director of the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, does note that dance/movement therapists are “highly trained therapists.” Indeed, dance/movement therapists are required to have a Master’s degree and thousands of hours of supervised clinical intern hours before being able to practice privately. (To read more on dance/movement therapy education and training, click here.)

Though I, personally, have never worked with children with autism, I know of many colleagues who do and the stories of connection and relationship will amaze you.

Here is one. Enjoy.

“Autistic Boy Makes Joyful Moves”

(As you watch the video footage, you’ll note instances of “mirroring,” a dance/movement therapy technique that helps communicate empathy and build therapeutic rapport. Mirroring and nonverbally reflecting the essence of another’s movement is both subtle and complex, never as straightforward as simply “doing what the other is doing.” But in this footage you can see a few examples of the dance/movement therapist building the nonverbal relationship in this manner. Additional still photos can be seen here.)

More on dance/movement therapy with autism, including research articles and books, can be read in this DMT-with-Autism-Informational-Sheet published by the ADTA.

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Another amazing continuing education opportunity this month in Los Angeles, relevant to psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, movement therapists, nurses and all those interested in exploring the interrelationship between psyche and body. Hope to see you there!

(Text below is from the New Center for PsychoAnalysis Website.)

Anne Alvarez describes Katya Bloom’s work as the ability to recognize and describe the importance of “flow” in the body. Dr. Bloom attempts to understand what happens within and to the body even when the patient is lying immobile on the couch. Dr. Bloom presents what movement theory and therapy can offer psychoanalysis and vice-versa. Clinical and observational material is presented by THRIVE members and discussed by Dr. Bloom.

Course Objectives
– Understand how movement analysis enhances the analyst/therapist’s grasp of early states of mind as expressed through the body
– Grasp basic fundamentals of Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) and awaken the psychoanalysts’ ability to attune to unthought or unverbalized communication
– Foster a meaningful dialogue between movement psychotherapy and psychoanalytic theory and technique

Katya Bloom, Ph.D., BC-DMT, CMA, is a movement psychotherapist in private practice in London. She is author of The Embodied Self: Movement and Psychoanalysis (Karnac, 2006). She has studied Infant Observation at the Tavistock Clinic in London. Her 2008 paper, “The Movement of Thought: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Mind and Body,” will appear in the International Journal of Infant Observation, summer 2009.

The THRIVE Infant-Family Program is co-sponsoring this event. THRIVE members are psychoanalysts whose goals are understanding the emotional life of the infant and helping infants and parents thrive in their conversation and communication. Directors: Julie McCaig, PhD and Paulene Popeck, PhD. Founding Members: Ethan Grumbach, PhD, Naomi Lieberman, PsyD, Vladimir Lipovetsky, MD and Erna Osterweil, PhD.

The New Center for Psychoanalysis and the Center for Parenting Studies are co-sponsoring this event with THRIVE. Click on the link for easy, on-line registration using your credit card or check.

Communicative Movement and The Embodiment Of Experience: The Link between Movement & Psychoanalysis
Saturday, January 23, 2010
9AM–12 PM CE/CME Credits: 3
New Center for Psychoanalysis
$50 pre-registration; $55 at the door

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This is a wonderful and rare opportunity to study, in depth, a component of the LivingDance~LivingMusic TM approach to dance/movement therapy, pioneered by Danielle Fraenkel, Ph.D., BC-DMT, NCC, LCAT, LMHC, CGP. This opportunity is even more special for those of us in California as Dr. Fraenkel lives in Rochester, New York. Her dance/movement therapy studio, Kinections, just celebrated its 25th year anniversary. Congratulations!

I had the privilege of studying under her for a year and a half during my post-graduate internship and am delighted that she will be offering this workshop in my backyard.

One of the exciting aspects of her work is that she has developed a theoretical framework for dance/movement therapy that is grounded in the inherent healing of dance, itself. You can learn more about this theory, specifically as it pertains to the use of breath, at the workshop below.

LivingDance~LivingMusic™
Breath and Somato Respiratory Integration™
as
Sources of Expression, Self-Awareness,
and Self-Acceptance —Part I

December 5, 2009 — 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
December 6, 2009 — 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Danielle Fraenkel, Ph.D., BC-DMT, NCC, LCAT, LMHC, CGP
Jeffrey Mehr, MA, musician

Course Description:
Students will learn how LivingDance~LivingMusic™ uses The Twelve Stages of Somato Respiratory Integration to generate here and now dances that shed light on the individual’s relationships to self and others. By working with the interactions among breath, touch, and movement, students will see how a theory of dance/movement therapy can be grounded in dance and how neurobiology, music, and dance affect one another. Developed originally for adults with eating disorders, this approach has been used in a variety of settings from partial hospitalization for the mentally ill to normal neurotics seeking to self-actualize. Live music.

• Students who complete the requirements for Part I will receive 1.5 credits towards certification in dance/movement therapy or 22.5 hours of continuing education.
• Students who also complete the requirements for Part II of this course will be eligible for a total of 3 credits towards certification in dance/movement therapy, 45 hours of continuing education and 3 credits towards qualifying to be a facilitator of LivingDance~LivingMusic.

Instructor
Dr. Danielle Fraenkel, director of Kinections℠, creator of LivingDance™ and published author, leads LivingDance~LivingMusic groups locally, nationally, and internationally.

Musician
Jeffrey Mehr, M.A., writer, poet, and photographer, has played piano since he was four and practiced Taijiquan for more than thirty years. His LivingMusic stems from these two disciplines. The dancers power the playing.

Location

California State University, Long Beach, CA 90840 (Dance Department)

Questions: kinectionsinfo@kinections.com
In California: Lora Wilson Mau, R-DMT, writelora@hotmail.com

Your Investment
$325.00 Visa and MasterCard accepted. Click HERE for Credit Card form.
Checks or money orders are payable to Kinections. Mail to:
Kinections, at Imagine Square, 718 University Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607
____________________________________________________________________________
(Check one) I have enclosed a bank check____ money order____ , or credit card information____ for $325.00 for
LivingDance~LivingMusic: Breath and SomatoRespiratory™ Integration as Sources of Expression, Self-Awareness, and Self-Acceptance, December 5-6, 2009.
OR
I have FAXed _____credit card information indicating that I give you permission to charge_______ dollars to my credit card account for the above course of study.
Card Type_______________________________ Number _______________________________
Exp: Date:_______________

Signature__________________________________________Date_____________________

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