Monday, March 7, 2011

Dance Movement Therapy at Maimonides

Last Thursday, I observed and participated in a Dance Movement Therapy session at Maimonides Hospital in south Brooklyn under the guidance of Patricia Capello, and her Pratt intern, Lisa. It was a 50 minute session in the in-patient unit of the Psychiatric wing. Capello believes in performing the session in a public space so that patients can decide when to join or remove themselves with their own volition. This small choice helps to build a patient's self efficacy, as well as sense of control and safety in the process. Because the unit is a short-stay facility, the group members change each session, and it is important that each session is a complete experience, which is rare for most DMT groups.

It was important for me to view first hand the DMT process, after researching it peripherally as an undergraduate, and taking a short weekend workshop with David Alan Harris. While the session proceeded, more or less, as I expected it would, I was still impressed by my own corporeal experience of the session and the sense of group development I felt during the short 50 minutes.

Capello outlines 5 main sections of the session:
1. warm up: welcome into space, safety
2. release: build energy of the group, explore space, interact with one another
3. theme: explore main ideas that evolve
4. centering: prepare for ending of session, grounding
5. closure: say goodbye, terminate and reflect on session

The use of TOUCH as a tool of connection was particularly effective in developing relationships with the patients.

Most strikingly, I remember a patient, M, whose eyes lit up after the dance therapist adapted a movement he was doing and allowed that movement to be the one that the group shared. For a man who otherwise smiled little, and made little eye contact, it was evident that the appropriation of his movement for the group's experience was a huge boost in his sense of efficacy and confidence.

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