Reflections (working in a secure unit)

Coming back to work after Christmas and starting again with clients and patients who are struggling in their worlds and perhaps in some cases not really fully understanding how difficult their situation is, knowing , that we get to dance, laugh and move in ways that are spontaneous, free; contained,  explosive, gentle; curious, light and authentic gives me hope.

Hope because we are living in a world that has no mercy and for these people who have a learning disability, schizophrenia, mental health issues and autism or whatever it is there only chance of happiness can sometimes just be accessed in moments of movements that are full of meaning for them. And for me this is where the beauty of dance movement therapy really has its place in the world of the creative and healing arts!

Karen Woodley - Dance Movement
Karen Woodley - Dance Movement

The idea is to keep alive the movement impulse! Which is the root of all development, we begin our life in movement so, and why would it not be so? As a dance movement psychotherapist who works very intuitively I am beginning to really appreciate the beauty of this work more and more. Every single session is completely different, because each moment is new and different. I remember when I was training one of my tutors discounted the use of intuition and I remember thinking ‘ah right don’t be so easy /soft/natural or whatever it was at the time…harden up and start to think  before you move’. All of this so contrary to what I do. In looking back I can see that in fact my intuition was so honed to work in movement, perhaps because of my background and experience in therapeutic movement”

Karen Woodley - Dance Movement
Karen Woodley - Dance Movement
Karen Woodley - Dance Movement
Karen Woodley - Dance Movement

Attunement

In working intuitively through movement with clients/patients we are attuning to them. Attunement is the most important element of the relationship because without it you are not with the other person. Mirroring the movement of a client with autism is good and it works to begin to enter into their world and for them to allow this however, unless your emotional antennae is attuned to the world of their emotions then real change becomes difficult.

Affect attunement is a deeper level of understanding and of letting the client know that you understand their experience. It is a behaviour that as therapists we do to let the client / patient know that we are feeling what they are feeling; getting inside of their affective state (Daniel Stern: The interpersonal world of the infant).

Karen Woodley - Dance Movement
Karen Woodley - Dance Movement

 

The movement impulse that starts from the heart is the one that we are looking for. So how do you work with this? How do you get a patient whose heart has been so traumatised that they are not in their body to begin to feel here?

So for me, the first thing is to not be afraid of your patients, afraid of them because ( in my situation) they have been detained under the mental health act. If you are afraid then they will retreat. When I was training and on placement with a group of alcoholics who had spent time in prison I was terrified. I was afraid and hypersensitive!

These are people who are not only locked in a secure unit but on top of that locked within themselves because of some behaviour that has caused harm. So a double or triple dose of what ‘normal folks’ like you and me have had to contend with. And if you are psychotherapist you continue in therapy yourself in order to be able to work to the best of your ability. This is part of how we develop and fine tune our skills to better be able to guide our clients towards health, wellbeing and healing on all levels.

So, I listen, feel, find the frequency of their heart and once I am here tune into where their movements begin and follow these. Following these spontaneous impulses and oftentimes speaking to them, really work and open the creative relationship with self and others.

Karen Woodley - Dance Movement
Karen Woodley - Dance Movement

Schizophrenia, autism, the learning disabled and people with mental problems are human beings and if you can see yourself as one of them then you will be successful. It is not enough to be sensitive and intuitive you need to help them link with the forces of nature, encouraging that spiritual link with the world and at the same time to know solidarity and love.

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