Dance movement psychotherapy

I would like to present an introductory article here on dance movement psychotherapy (DMP) from a gestalt perspective. Dr. Bonnie Meekums, a registered DMP and academic at Leeds University, claims contemporary forms of DMP have a clear psychotherapeutic underpinning e.g. psychodynamic, interpersonal or inter subjective or gestalt or whatever. 

I agree with the view that DMP is based on the psychotherapeutic use of movement and that the practice of DMP is based on the complex interrelationship of mind/body, body/mind. It can be used with a wide range of client groups, presentations and either groups, individuals or couples. 

The aim of DMP is to enable integration of the whole person as far as possible - be it emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically. 

There are many different ways of working but briefly on a practical level for a group, for example we might use the 'Chacian' circle formation (meaning exactly what it says). This is used as a part of the means holding the group in regard to process, whatever that may be. We would have some form of check in, which could be nonverbal movement, posture or gesture or verbal or both. There would be some kind of warm up (not just physically) which would then inform the middle or process section and then there would be warm down and closure. This is very brief and will be expanded on in future articles.

A central component that the therapist brings to the work is their art form of dance or movement or somatic practice. Many art forms of ballroom dance, in all it's complexity (as it is often reduced to just social dancing), involves a wide range of knowledge and experience from the therapist to inform interventions with clients. Many will draw on psychotherapies such as gestalt psychotherapy and developmental and somatic psychotherapy (DSP) to frame or make sense of what is happening in the here and now of the therapy with the clients. Not forgetting that DMP is also most often practised as a form of group psychotherapy.

The gestalt concepts of contact, contact boundary and awareness are some of the concepts used in this process of making sense and working with the client psychotherapeutically which often is non-verbally through movement. It does not have to be just movement of course. Nevertheless, as in the talking therapies we work with transference and countertransference. As DMPs, we use kinaesthetic empathy, mirroring etc., in our work with our clients. 

As with all professional art therapists, counsellors and psychotherapists, DMP therapists must train at Masters level over three years if part time. We are required to have personal therapy, supervision and regular continuing professional development (CPD).

This is but a brief introductory article, presenting DMP as one of the less well known of following art therapies of art, drama, play and music. From what I have written thus far, there are numerous strands that can be expanded upon, and would this welcome any comment or feedback or expressions of interest in what areas you might wish to know ore of. 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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