Sometimes I think the hardest part about being a Dance Movement Therapist is convincing people to give it a chance. Once we’re in the room and moving together, that’s when the value of the process becomes clear. But starting therapy, even a form as widely known as psychoanalysis or cognitive behavioural therapy, can be intimidating enough as it is. I’m asking you to take a chance on something you’ve probably never even heard of before! It’s a lot to ask, I know, and that’s why I’m writing these blogs.
In my first blog, I wrote about what DMT is and what a session might look like to give you an idea of what you’d be getting yourself into. My goal in writing this blog is to share a little bit of my own experiences with DMT and why I chose it, in the hope that it might inspire you to consider DMT as an option for therapy.
So, why did I choose Dance Movement Therapy?
Dance has always brought a lot of joy to my life. The freedom and connection that I experience while dancing have given me some incredibly fulfilling moments: moments where I feel alive and awake to the incredible depth and richness of sensations in my body, and moments where I feel I am most fully myself. These experiences have at different times brought healing, growth, and purpose to my life.
When I first heard about DMT, I couldn’t quite believe it: I had found a career that brought together my love for dance and my desire to share the dance experience with others. So the choice was easy for me, in fact, it seemed inevitable. Since doing my training as a DMT, my passion for the modality has only grown. The more I learn and facilitate, the more convinced I am in the power of dance as a tool for healing and growth.
For me, DMT is a way of incorporating the moving, feeling, expressing body into everyday life. I am constantly surprised by how much wisdom and instinctual knowledge are present in my body. There is always something new and rich and exciting whenever I give myself the space to stop thinking and start moving, and yet, it feels like the ways of accessing our body’s resources aren’t readily available in our culture of fast-paced, thought-oriented living.
So often we put the mind at the top of the hierarchy, neglecting the importance and intelligence of the body, emotions, and other felt senses. In DMT, we seek not only to bring the body and mind closer together (hierarchically) through bringing the moving, expressing body into the forefront of the therapeutic process, but also to encourage the idea that maybe the mind and body aren’t so separate after all.
This is addressed through the process of embodiment – an important concept that you wouldn’t always find in a talk therapy session. There are slightly different definitions of this term depending on where you’re encountering it, but for our purposes, let’s think of embodiment as the process of bringing the body and mind together, of coming into and being in the body.
Through embodied movement I can feel integrated and connected, and have access to all of the instinct, wisdom, and resources held within my body. It is one of the main reasons why I feel DMT is so effective. When I embody an emotion, I can feel it coming to life within my body. As I move with it and follow the impulse to its completion, it can allow for a release and transition to something different.
To give you an idea of what this might look like, I’ll use an example from one of the experiential aspects of a course in my DMT training, where we were experimenting with embodying depression. Embodying this state made my movements much smaller and I drew myself into a ball on the floor, hugging my legs tightly to my chest and hiding my face. Our professor asked us to make our expression as fully embodied as possible, and the energy of my movement changed as I started pulling in with my arms and pushing against them with my legs, creating a rocking movement. As I followed through with the movement I continued to push my legs into my arms and resist against that until eventually I burst open, lying back on the floor with my arms and legs outstretched, breathing deeply and freely. In this position I found grounding, balance, and openness, or as my professor put it “the antidote”.
Had I sat down and thought about what the antidote to my depression might be rather than embodying and moving through it, I doubt I would have arrived at my open position lying on the floor, but when I trusted my body and movement to lead me instead, I found exactly what I needed.
The embodied therapeutic movement practice has offered me a new perspective about myself: maybe I don’t have to look outwards to find solutions, the answers I need are already in me, and if I can just let them move and breathe they will become clear. This is what DMP has given me, and part of what I hope to share with others.
I could go on listing and explaining all the ways that DMT continues to enrich my life, but then I would be writing and you would be reading for so long that we might never be able to move again! So I’ll stop writing for now, and thank you for taking the time to read this. If you’re interested in what you’ve read or have any questions, please feel free to get in touch via the contact page. Also, I offer free consultation appointments so please let me know if you’d like to give DMT a try!
-Jessica Houghton (Dance Movement Therapist)