When I was in graduate school for music therapy we were required to see a therapist of our own, and it was recommended to see a creative arts therapist of some kind. While I was interning at a hospital, I began weekly visits with a dance therapist in upper Manhattan. What a strange, unforgettable experience it was. In a dimly-lit room, the therapist would sit in one corner and I was instructed to stand in the middle of the room with my eyes closed and then … move. Hop, roll, scrunch over, dance, pop, raise my arms; whatever I felt in my body should be expressed visually. After about twenty minutes of this, I’d sit down and the therapist would verbalize what she saw me doing. And then we’d analyze it.
I’ve noticed that most of the dance therapists in Maine are working with children and aren’t doing this type of psychotherapy- that doesn’t surprise me at all. I have trouble thinking of many Mainers who would be comfortable wiggling around in dark silence while a stranger watched- but perhaps I’m generalizing.
The thing is, this type of dance therapy (specifically called Authentic Movement) can be incredibly helpful and it’s too bad it’s not more widely accepted and available. Authentic Movement was developed in the 1950s as a type of free association of the body. Some of the skills that can be worked on through AM include:
- Developing awareness of one’s motions
- Increasing interpersonal skills and empathy
- Affirming feelings and restoring a sense of confidence
- Enhancing the sense of meaning in daily life
- Attending to preverbal memories
- Reflecting on the unconscious feelings that are brought to the surface
- Developing a secure attachment style
As the ADTA blog states, “As Authentic Movement involves diving into the inner depths and bringing them outward, it is only used with people who are higher functioning and free from reality disorientation.”
If you’re interested, I highly recommend contacting a qualified dance therapist and exploring this profound experience.