So, What is Dance Movement Therapy/Psychotherapy?
Often I will be asked what does a Dance Movement Psychotherapist (DMP) do? Or what is Dance Movement Psychotherapy?
In order to engage in this type of therapy, the first thing to clarify is that it is not connected to your ability to dance, an understandable and common misconception.
The body and its movement are an integral part of the therapy and it is the dialogue between client and therapist through movement that creates dance.
I will explore this premise more in a series of blogs. The aim is to offer an understanding of Dance Movement Psychotherapy through sharing elements of my own practice, how my clients have influenced the process and how other relevant models have informed me along the way. I will also share my thoughts on how it can be interpreted and assimilated into other areas not specifically related to therapy.
I invite you to join me as I navigate this path, beginning with my discoveries, of the skills learned and developed whilst working with clients diagnosed as having Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD).
So, let me take you back to my beginnings as a fledgling therapist………..
In the early stages of my training, I was fortunate enough to be part of a professional team of creative therapists at a day centre for people with PMLD, who shared an ethos of respect for individuality and uniqueness of the person, rather than focus on the label of disability,
Being a part of this community sparked a curiosity and an awareness in me about how, in the Western world, in general, we rely on the spoken word to convey and support what we are experiencing, giving little thought to other ways of communicating.
It was here, rather humbly, that I learned about the power of the unspoken. The need to rely on the body, as a means of communication, honed my intuitive senses. The relationships that I built with the clients, proved to be a place of discovery, as we opened up to each other’s method of communicating and began to co create a shared language with meaning
One of the key influences in developing these learned and often intuitive skills, was from the clients who did not have the power of speech, so the only viable form of communication open to us was either via the body, through movement and gesture, or through somatic sensing.
To illustrate this, let me tell you about an alliance I developed with a client at the centre who was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. At the time, I was facilitating a large group, once per week, with a DMP colleague.
When I first encountered this man, his method of greeting me was to press on my shoulder,with his hand, rather forcefully. I sensed this was more about his enthusiasm rather than an act of aggression as he appeared to enjoy the freedom of moving in this space each week. It was possible that when he saw me, it was a cue that his hour of liberation was about to start!
As trust developed between us, over the coming weeks, we were able to negotiate a gentler movement, a tapping on the shoulder, as a form of reciprocal greeting.
In sensing his intention then taking his original action and modifying it, together, we had found a way of greeting that worked for both of us and importantly, validated his method of communicating through gesture.
As demonstrated in this small vignette, it is vital as a DMP to have space in my body/mind to receive messages from my clients and accurately translate them. So it is important then, for me to hold a continuous embodied awareness between myself, as therapist and my client/s so that an empathic interaction can develop based on sense, feeling and intuition.
I see this process as significant in laying the foundations for a shared communication style based on mutual influence that can be applied to so many other areas of my work.
Closing Thought: ‘….Integration can belong neither to the mind nor the body alone, it involves both, the two are inseparable…’ Katya Bloom
In my next blog I will focus on ways in which the PMLD community influenced my ability to prepare my body/mind as a therapist and facilitator.
To find out more about DMP and how an awareness of your body and it’s movement can be key in making change happen in your life, head over to my website or contact me at http://www.evolvemovementtherapy.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org