Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘neuroscience’

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Wouldn’t that be something?

This question will be explored in depth at my upcoming presentation, Gene Expression and Neuroplasticity: Implications for Dance/Movement Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease, at the American Dance Therapy Association’s 2010 Conference: Creating the Mind-Body Mosaic: Theory, Research and Practice in Dance/Movement Therapy.

For a sneak peak at what we’ll be discussing and learning through movement exploration, here’s the abstract from my conference paper – the entirety of which can be obtained through attending the conference or by direct purchase from the ADTA:

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to continue to grow and change in response to new experiences throughout the life span. Evidence supports that plasticity declines as we age and that this deterioration precedes the more commonly recognized pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease, including plaques and tangles. Research also supports that certain types of physical, sensory and social experiences can maintain brain plasticity and increase neurogenesis. Building on the anecdotal and clinical literature that supports the use of dance/movement therapy with individuals with dementia, this workshop introduces Ernest Rossi’s concept of “psychosocial genomics” and integrates the language of neuroscience to more concretely explain what can happen on a molecular level during a DMT session and why that may be particularly significant in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (Wilson-Mau, 2010).

The impact of widespread implementation of interventions that prevent and delay progression of Alzheimer’s disease is profound, according to the calculations of the Alzheimer’s Association (2010). If, by the year 2015, we could universally implement an intervention that delays onset of Alzheimer’s disease a mere five years, we would reduce the number of Americans with the disease in 2050 by almost 50%. Calculations also project that an intervention universally implemented by 2015 that simply slowed the progression of the disease would reduce the number of Americans in 2050 living in the severe stage of the disease (and requiring most care) BY NEARLY 80%!.

While Alzheimer’s disease is a very complex neurodegenerative disorder that needs continued study, there is much research that already points to the power of dance (and, in turn, dance/movement therapy) to confront its threat. Collaborations between dance/movement therapists and neuroscientists are absolutely necessary – NOW – to bring the attention of the world to the profound healing power of something so simple and accessible to us all: DANCE.

For a look at the complete list of workshops being offered Sept 23-26 at the conference in Brooklyn, click here.

Resources:

Wilson-Mau, L. (2010, September). Gene Expression and Neuroplasticity: Implications for Dance/Movement Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease. Paper to be presented at the American Dance Therapy Association Conference, Brooklyn, NY.

Alzheimer’s Assocation. (2010). Changing the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease: A national imperative. Washington, DC.

Read Full Post »

My title for this post is a direct quote from Dr. Andrew Weil’s opening keynote speech today at The Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, California (billed as the world’s largest psychotherapy conference, traditionally held only every five years.)

The entire speech, Integrative Medicine, the Mind-Body Connection, and the Future of Health Care, set the stage for an entire day and evening of workshops that addressed the mindbody relationship and its central role in healing.

Dance/movement therapists have been operating professionally for over 45 years on the principles of the reciprocal nature of the mind and body; our work has always emerged from the body’s innate capacity to heal. These are not “new” discoveries to any dance/movement therapist. But what IS new and incredibly exciting is that neuroscientists and microbiologists are finally understanding the mechanisms within the brain and the molecular nature of emotion so that our work can actually be validated by hard science.

Anyone who has ever experienced dance/movement therapy can speak to its efficacy and DMT IS evidence-based via a variety of research methodologies, but science’s emerging understanding of the unity of mind and body on a molecular level is precisely the quantitative measure that supports our work unequivocally.

Now, we just need to build the research teams: dance/movement therapists and interpersonal microbiologists and neuroscientists working together!

After attending Dr. Weil’s keynote, I experienced the following events:

Gene Expression and Brain Plasticity in the Evolution of Psychotherapy: Ernest Rossi, PhD
The Clinical Wisdom of Modern Neuroscience and Buddhist Psychology: Jack Kornfield, PhD and Daniel Siegel, MD
Reinventing the Mind; Resurrecting the Soul: Deepak Chopra, MD

It was a perfectly themed day, each workshop complementing the one before and after it.

I also had the honor of meeting David Harris, MA, BC-DMT, who has just returned from England where he received the Freedom to Create prize for his dance/movement therapy work with child soldiers in Sierre Leone. I have written about his work in an earlier post, but you can read about his latest international prize and subsequent press here. It was an honor to meet him and hear of his travels and teachings!

Tomorrow promises to be just as exciting at the conference. What an exciting time to be a dance/movement therapist, when science can finally prove what the most ancient and wise healers have always known: dance is healing!

Read Full Post »

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_____________________

Read Full Post »

Ever open a book or click on a link randomly to discover a message that seems precisely written just for you in that moment on that day?

On this particular day I struggled with finding the motivation and energy to fight my way through an overgrown jungle of stressors. After awaking from a three hour nap that was a response to oppressing heat and weight of ongoing stress, I decided to check in on the online writings of my friends and colleagues and “randomly” came across this link through a blog entitled The Somatic Mechanic.

Just prior to my nap (when was the last time I actually took a nap?!?!) I had been mentally beating myself up for not taking contrary action and using this Saturday to dive into my To Do list; I had tried to coach myself (in my mind, unsuccessfully) to not fall victim to the stress that has been the driving pulse of our my family’s life for months now and to Get Things Done.

Such the American perspective, right?
Get Things Done.
Despite.
Whatever.

Sick?
Take a pill to disguise the symptoms. Work through it.

Grieving?
Here, take 3 days. You work will be waiting for you on the 4th day.

Tired?
Drink some coffee. Chop chop. Never mind that consuming caffeine can end up just making you more tired the next day. Whatever you do, DON’T SLEEP. In America, a need for sleep is a sign of the weak and lazy and unmotivated.

Stressed?
Get over it.

Granted, not everyone in our country walks through their daily lives, guided by such a dearth of self-compassion. But even if one is able to carve out space and time for oneself in a self-nurturing way that is contradictory to our cultural paradigm, the fact remains that this paradigmatic pressure exists.

We all know “stress” isn’t good for us for a growing number of reasons. This article from the NY Times, however, illuminates how living in a chronic stressful state actually rewires the brain to make living in that stressful “rut” persistent. Living under constant stress takes its toll on our brains, in such a way that we can lose our ability to make healthy choices in response to it.

Don’t lose all hope though. The plasticity of our brains is miraculous and it is possible, that with a enough time stress-free, the synapses and dendrites in our brain can change and our ability to make healthier decisions can re-emerge.

I read that article and I felt like one of those rats. But what a gift to understand the mechanisms in the brain and how they affect the body and our choices.

And as a dance/movement therapist I understand fully well how the movement of the body, in turn, affects the brain and our choices.

Maybe that three hour nap wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to head to the gym now. My body needs to move and somehow, I just found the energy and motivation to let it.

Read Full Post »