Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
By: Laraine Miner, MS, LPC
The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process which furthers the emotional, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual.” This form of therapy is uniquely suited for those suffering from the symptoms of eating disorders since the goal is to engage the body as an ally in the therapy process, and for the client to eventually reclaim her body as a source of self-fulfillment, self-expression, and joy. The body is where we feel our emotions and heal our emotions. It is the most completely personal instrument of self-expression. The body is very wise and does not lie. Words are the most misunderstood form of communication, but words and body movement combined can be the most powerful way of being seen and known by oneself and others. In our bodies we feel our greatest joy and our greatest pain. Healing occurs through authentically moving through the expression of who we are, our hopes, our fears, our sorrows, joys, and dreams. By “physicalizing” these experiences we gain a more complete and intimate understanding of who we are and how we can become whole and productive through connecting body, mind, and spirit.
Through group and individual dance/movement therapy, patients at Center for Change have the opportunity to distinguish between “illegal exercise” and healthy, soul-satisfying dance and movement. Emphasis is on “inhabiting” the body, “listening” to the body, and “making peace” with the body. Natural, authentic movement is encouraged, which may not necessarily be pretty, graceful, or spectacular, but is an authentic expression of inner feelings and experiences. A full range of movement qualities and rhythms are explored to evoke feelings, images, and expressions unique to each individual. Moving together in group can create a unique bonding and community experience.
Dance/movement group experiential is designed to address a wide variety of issues such as: getting in touch with feelings and expressing them, assertiveness, anger management, relationships, relaxation, anxiety management, self-esteem and body image, dysfunctional vs functional patterns of behavior, sexuality, releasing into play, self-soothing and nurturing, moving out of life-traps, finding personal power, dream exploration, and spirituality. Clients have the opportunity to address and explore these and any other issues in more depth through voluntary, individual dance/movement therapy sessions.
It is normal for clients to experience some initial self-consciousness and resistance to these experiences. Most people in our modern American culture do, since dance and expressive movement have been mostly lost and suppressed, or relegated to professional stage performance. Loss of the mind/body connection in our present society is a contributing factor to the prevalence of eating disorders. Clients at Center for Change are encouraged to put aside judgment, or preconceived ideas of how they should move, and take on the risk and challenge of opening themselves to the movement experience in the moment. Evaluation and cognitive integration comes later through verbal processing, and is essential to find the meaning or the “teaching” in the experience.