Depression and Dance/movement therapy: climate change from the inside-out: Guest Blogger Jane Cathcart, LCSW
Movement never lies. It is a barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who can read it. ~Martha Graham
Depression is an energy disease wherein people feel down, not up. Sometimes when you have little or no energy you need to find a source outside of you. Depression leaves one feeling stuck. Studies show psychotherapy and physical activity are extremely useful in helping to lift depression. Dance/movement therapy combines the two and adds the expression of emotions through dance and movement. Often verbal psychotherapy does not access the emotional inner landscape of preverbal and nonverbal experiences.
I have italicized certain words in the preceeding paragraph. You will notice how these words describe spatial orientation and a muscular state. The use of metaphor is a way for people to approach problem-solving in a creative way. Dance/movement therapists work with patients to find their own metaphors both in words and movement. Body metaphor is a mainstay of the healing process in this modality.
Here is the definition offered by the American Dance Therapy Association:
“Dance/movement therapy (DMT) uses movement to further
the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the
individual. Through movement, DMT can help individuals with
a wide range of psychological disorders achieve greater self-expression.”
Dance/movement therapy IS:
– about the movement of the individual seeking relief
– for everyone: no age limit, no restriction of the senses, or of mobility
– exploration of the emotions in three dimensional form, and beyond words
– provided in a warm, accepting climate of discovery and growth
- the inner dance can be experienced as release and healing and for material to explore in many ways
Dance/movement therapy is NOT:
– about a particular form of dance; say the tango, hip-hop or waltz
– judgmental about the “how” of someone’s movement style or body type
– only for people who can socially dance or who dance professionally
- to this last point: Indeed it is not unusual for trained dancers to be quite challenged by dance/movement therapy because they have habitual ways of moving that can mask the organic, spontaneous expression of emotion.
Let’s go back to the notion of being stuck and Martha Graham’s quote at the top of the page. We all have our preferred way of being in the world, and if it is not comfortable we change it. When depression is present we become stuck. Through accepting the patient as s/he is the dance/movement therapist trust and comfort are established. Once there is a basic understanding of one another and the form of d/mt the therapist models and offers other ways of moving. If for example a person is relatively still and contained, the d/mt would not suggest flinging arms open and upward to do a “happy” dance. DMT starts with where the patient is emotionally and physically. The dialogue is verbal and nonverbal and from this relationship the healing begins. Music is often used, as are props and imagery.
In sum, when you are feeling stuck you do not have to stay that way. Through a creative, and at times enjoyable therapy you can move your way into a greater sense of well-being and a brighter inner climate. Having shared some information about this exiciting therapy I offer an invitation from Lewis Carroll’s “The Lobster-Quadrille”:
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the
Dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain. ~Martha Graham