By: Joanna Taubeneck
What are you feeling in your body right now? Tension? Ease? Heaviness? Lightness? Maybe too many sensations to count? Or…maybe nothing at all? No matter what your answer to this question, you are beginning to notice that your body has a voice, and that it very much wants you to listen to what it has to say. Dance/Movement Therapists are trained to invite you into your inner world and to get curious about the landscape. DMTs acknowledge that our bodies communicate just as loudly as our brains, and that more often than not they speak much more honestly, vulnerably, and intuitively. So, will we actually be dancing in a session? Probably not. But will we be giving our bodies the safe, exploratory, non-judgmental space to express themselves in powerful ways? Definitely.
The American Dance Therapy Association defines Dance/Movement Therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being. Dance/Movement Therapists are masters level clinicians (typically LPCs/LCPCs), who identify that healing cannot happen fully without room for the body in the process. Is the word “dance” in Dance/Movement Therapy slightly misleading? Maaaybe (Marian Chase, the dancer who pioneered DMT in the 1940s is turning [pirouette-ing?] in her grave as I write this!). Although the use of DMT as a therapeutic intervention began because dancing inherently promotes self-awareness and present-moment connection, the modality has very much broadened in modern day psychotherapy; today, a DMT session can look like anything from mindfully tracking the sensations in your body to following and embodying movement impulses.
What do I mean by following movement impulses? First off, Dance/Movement Therapy is an empirically-based treatment for those who have experienced trauma. During any moment of trauma our bodies are often unable to move in the way that they need in order to escape or fight back. Thus, post-trauma, we can become stuck in a “frozen” state, so to speak; our bodies’ stress hormones are continuing to pump through us, but with nowhere to go because movement has been inhibited. As a result, our bodies remain yearning to do the thing that could not have been done at the time of the trauma. So, in the process of healing trauma, if all we do is speak about our experience these movement impulses will remain suppressed. Cue: Dance/Movement Therapy. DMTs are trained to invite, witness, and process movement that is ready to surface and ready to be released.
Dance/Movement Therapists see everyone—not just those with trauma. Like any other psychotherapist we work with mood and anxiety disorders, addiction, grief, life transitions, individuals, couples, families, and more. Because truly, we are ALL movers—our hearts are beating, our lungs are breathing, and our energy is vibrating in ways that we often forget to notice. And I know, tuning into the wisdom of our bodies can be super scary. Going inward can feel like attempting to navigate uncharted territory, but rest assured that you’re not alone in those feelings (I was first drawn to becoming a DMT because I had numbed out my body for a LONG time!) and that ANYONE can form a more connected, compassionate, and curiosity-driven relationship with their body. Interested? Find a local DMT here.
-Joanna Taubeneck, LPC, R-DMT, GL-CMA, E-RYT