Psychotherapy

Developmental Difficulties & Trauma

Dance movement psychotherapy is an effective treatment modality for the observation, assessment and treatment of infants and children with developmental difficulties and delays in all areas; children considered "at risk" due to environmental circumstances; children who have experienced early trauma through birth or illness; as well as those children who are having difficulties, but no specific diagnoses capture the child completely.

My approach in working with such populations is to regard the child's nonverbal behaviors as a form of communication portraying their experiences and sense of self. Specifically, I respond to the child's particular movement expressions as he or she interacts within the surrounding spatial environment. It is this interaction between self and spatial environment, observable in these personal characteristic movement patterns, which display how the child is relating, adapting and responding to their environment. In this way the child becomes the catalyst of the therapeutic intervention.

From such observations and interactions I am able to derive an understanding of the "whole child." This enables me to be opened to all aspects of the child's development and experience – motoric, sensorial, verbal/communicative, emotional, cognitive – which may influence how they perceives and responds to their surroundings. My initial considerations when observing a child are:

  • How does relating and moving in that child's unique way color their experience?
  • What does it feel like to experience the world through that child's particular expressive movement repertoire?
  • How can a therapeutic environment be structured to enable the child to experience their way of relating and functioning as a communicative tool, while simultaneously enabling the child through that experience to explore new ways of interacting with their environment?

Based on these questions the intervention strategy focuses on how the individual child is using their own unique internal structures to cope, adapt and respond to the environment. In the therapeutic setting the child's personal nonverbal movement style directs the movement interaction dialog between the child and the therapist. The "dance" in the dance movement psychotherapy process begins as these movement elements unfold throughout the child's spontaneous choreography. These may involve actual dance actions as well as creative play and storytelling activities. The salient elements of each weekly dance play become reconstructed in the new dance play the next week under the child's direction.

In this way this environment enables the child to take us on their own personal journey sharing with us how they have experienced the world. Through this process my role as therapist is to uncover and integrate the child's felt-sense memories, concerns and action-based representations of their experiences by translating them into multilevel expressible understandings for the child. This therapeutic environment acts as a secure container for the child's expressions – a "holding" framework from which the child can experience a response to their movement language. A sense of wholeness and completion is felt by the child as their symbolic expressions are heard.

As the child receives recognition for their efforts and expressions, then they become receptive to engage in expanded movement exchanges. This mutual sharing of experiences provides a safe environment to explore alternative communicative methods while simultaneously encouraging growth in physical, emotional, and cognitive development.