HAPPY FEET: HEALING THROUGH DANCE
There are various options available in India today for understanding and promoting mental health along with providing proper care and facilitation for the same. Although there are various traditional methods available, today through this post, let's shed some more light on a well established form of therapy that is primarily used in Europe and U.S.A but is slowly but surely gaining importance in India.
Dance Movement Therapy.
Like any other expression based therapy, Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) is based on the idea that an individual will express himself/herself openly in an environment that is supportive and nurturing and this in turn will help promote healing.
Dance Movement Therapy finds its origins through the work of Marian Chase. Chase is regarded as the pioneer of DMT and was professionally a dance instructor. It was in her dance school that she noticed the positive effects of dance on her students. She noticed that for her them, dancing was more than just a series of body movements combined together. It was more of an outlet for expressing themselves and their feelings. After further continuing her study at the Washington School of Psychiatry, Chase was able to lay the foundations of modern day Dance Movement Therapy. One of the most important contributions by Chase was the creation of the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), an organization dedicated to the cause of DMT.
Dance Movement Therapy as it is known today started shaping into place towards the end of the 20th century when therapists began using dance as a means of therapy. It was at this time that Dance Movement Therapy gained acknowledgement as a method of psychotherapy.
SO WHAT IS DMT?
The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), defines Dance Therapy as "Psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual based on the premise that the body, mind and soul are connected."
It is a form of therapy that uses body movements as a key factor to understand expressed and communicative behaviour. The basic premise of the therapy is to free the repressed emotions and feelings that are stuck inside the body and mind and are causing problems. When repressed emotions or unresolved trauma gets stuck inside the body, it leads to problems and DMT aims at targeting these emotions to form the basis of assessing the individual and coming up with a suitable intervention plan. There will often be certain barriers in verbal therapy sessions that prevent one from completely opening up and expressing, which is where DMT targets the underlying deep emotions, based on the idea that movements reflect an individual's pattern of thinking and feeling.
DMT therapists believe that the mind and body are interconnected and any change in the emotional state of an individual results in a positive or negative effect on the body. The negative effects can be seen through illnesses, negative expressions, unbalanced emotions, impaired movements etc.
A DMT session usually makes use of stages. Preparation is the first stage and it makes use of warming up the body to reduce risk of injury. Incubation is the next stage where the focus is on creating an internal environment through verbal instructions by the therapist. This helps to create a relaxed and comfortable session. The next stage is the Illumination stage where through talking to the individual, one learns what different movements mean and what they actually exhibit. It helps to showcase how the negative and positive effects are impacting the individual. The last and final stage is Evaluation which involves a share and feedback activity based on the occurrences of the session to share insights and move towards the end of the session.
WHAT DANCE STYLE DOES A DMT SESSION USE?
The dance style used in a sessions largely depends on the people participating in the session. Many dance styles such as freestyle, yoga based, Latin dance styles, ballroom dances, etc are used. The dance style depends largely on the needs of the individual or the group participating in the dance. Therapists can make use of improvised dancing along with having the participants follow a choreographed section.
WHO CAN GO FOR A DMT SESSION?
The answer to that is simple. Anyone can attend a DMT session. From adults to children, DMT can be beneficial for all. It is particularly useful for anyone facing emotional distress, unresolved trauma, victims of abuse, when dealing with loss or sudden acceptance of chance, prolonged health and mental problems, learning disabilities, speech disabilities , attention span deficits, depression, inability to express oneself verbally, bodily problems that restrict movement such as arthritis, ageing etc. It can also be useful for someone who wants to improve their self awareness and communication skills. It is also a helpful outlet for stress reduction and mode of relaxation.
DMT is practised at various set ups such as mental health care facilities, private nursing homes and clinical set ups, medical set ups, rehabilitation centres, education set up such as schools and colleges, residential treatment set ups etc.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DMT?
1. DMT makes use of complete integration of the mind and body through various brain functions and body movements to create a complete body and soul experience.
2. It combines usage of multiple areas of the brain simultaneously rather than only activating one part thereby increasing cognitive and physical recovery.
3. It helps in enhancing interpersonal relations through increasing self awareness, creating trust, reducing anxiety, establishing and enhancing boundaries etc.
4. Dmt helps in releasing repressed emotions and acts an outlet for the release without actually having to talk about it.
5. Anyone can take up DMT. This helps boost confidence and increase self-esteem and reduces complexes.
6. It is particularly helpful for children with various learning disabilities, memory related issues, slow development, hearing impaired, speech related issues, anxiety and trust issues, attention deficits etc,
7. It is an effective method of overcoming abuse and trauma, especially in children.
8. It helps increase the connection between thoughts, feelings and emotions.
9. It promotes mental and physical health by aiding in relaxation and stress reduction.
10. It helps in increasing not only psychological benefits but also physiological benefits such as flexibility, reduced body ailments, reduced muscle tension, increasing body circulation etc.
11. As it does not require any prior experience of dancing, and explicit coordination skills, it is advantageous to one and all.
12. It is particularly useful for anyone suffering from autistic spectrum disorders.
Although there are only a few advantages listed above, there are many more to Dance Movement Therapy.
SO CAN ANYONE CONDUCT A DMT SESSION?
As simple as the idea of dancing sound, it is actually not that easy to facilitate. One has to be a certified DMT therapist to be able to fully understand body movements, interpret the language of emotions and help form a structured intervention program that will actually benefit the individual. It is crucial to understand body movements, motions, emotions, non verbal gestures to help the individual achieve emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration. The therapist will also observe the individual as to how he/ she communicates and reacts to other individuals in a group setting. They will also observe how you sue and react to the various props that are used during the session.
There are two registered courses for a dance therapists.
The R-DMT, Registered Dance Movement Therapist has the basic level of training as put forward by the ADTA. They also require a masters degree and a minimum of 700 hours of supervised clinical internship. They can conduct dance therapy sessions in a clinical or educational setting.
The BC-DMT, Board Certified Dance Therapist has completed the basic and advanced levels of training as put forward by the ADTA. They have also succesfully passed the qualifying examination and over 3000 hours of supervised clinical internship. They are qualified to conduct dance therapy in their own private practice setting along with acting as supervisory therapists that provide training.
Dance Therapy is one of the most advantageous therapies that is gaining importance in India as it is beneficial to one and all. It not only helps to aid in healing and promoting well being but only helps in overall enhancement of the total physical and mental framework of an individual. Awareness and interest at a large scale level is needed today to propel DMT into the league of traditional mental health therapeutic methods followed in India but slowly but surely, the times are changing.