The topic of this month’s blog post is inspired in working for a low secure hospital with patients who have been detained for offending and who present with varying degrees of learning disabilities and multiple personality disorders. As the dance movement psychotherapist at the hospital I work alongside psychiatrists, art psychotherapist and occupational therapists; a multidisciplinary team.
I have talked about the therapeutic relationship and interventions in other posts but have not really focused in on any specific element of working with these patients who by the way I feel honoured to be working with! One thing that is happening in sessions at the moment is the ‘somatic work’.
The point where the ‘felt’ body has the chance to exist which for these particular patients, who have a forensic background the ‘felt body’ is particular alien to them and as my clinical supervisor pointed out they know they are different.
These people have this awareness of being ‘not normal’ and so any hint of good sensation / good feeling appearing in their body, in their psychology seems to me a lifeline.
So whilst I work to address specific goals in order to facilitate therapeutic change like the development of positive and kind social interactions or skills or the development of emotional expression alongside this and really more importantly is the work with the first affective link, in the present moment and grow from there.
According to the late clinical psychologist and anthropologist Rolando Toro affectivity is an open disposition and permanent inclination of care and empathy for people and everything that is alive and impregnates the perception of beauty, imagination and understanding (Art therapy and postmodernism – creative healing through a prism. Dr Helene Burt, 2011).
For these patients who have not received any heart valued care/respect/connection at all but who have been abused and trashed away a tiny glimpse of goodness in a moment can provide that vital link that could be a step towards their chance at a ‘normal life’. This is extremely important because for these patients any chance at normal development is extremely limited because due to the immensity of being deprived of any humane emotions they have no space for symbolic play.
Symbolic play is what helps the baby to make sense of the world and connections through to language. It is like a first stepping stone into development, understanding language and from which the next step comes! (This is very simplified). Without this the baby does not have a chance to connect events / objects / shapes / colours etc. Thus they grow up unable to form healthy relationships.
So coming back to the power or movement therapy I am able to provide a space where we do play and even though it may be directed some by myself and because movement is a major focus of the sessions it is within the ‘living the moment’ that links/light/magic happens if you will. We are not acting ‘as if’, we are not ‘moving in the past or in the future but we are dancing here and now and it is in the here and now that the ‘felt’ expression or sensation comes through. It is here that we have a chance at ‘something normal’ and if this contains the main ingredient of affection then I believe that this is the most powerful thing we can do.
So if within this awareness of ‘not being normal’ a living moment exists / happens / manifests itself where they feel something other than ‘not being normal’ and if in this moment their life is honoured then the goodness of life has a chance to flow through them and their physiology, biology, psychology, very nature has a chance to learn again.