Chace picked up the essential emotional quality of her patients letting them know she saw them. According to Chace, (Chaiklin and Schmais inLewis, 1979, p.27) empathy means sharing the essence of all non-verbal expression resulting in ‘direct communication’ and understanding of their essence. Being open and non-defensive is a precondition for empathy and being with a spirit of friendliness. This spirit is what many therapists have felt naturally but have denied in order to be good ‘professionals’. For dance movement psychotherapists the empathic understanding is shown through tuning into the clients body and mirroring their movements not copying them. Mirroring with feeling and understanding on a deep level their humanity.
“The suffering individual needs the presence of an empathic person, who can provide a temenos, a safe and secure space, within which unconscious fantasies and conscious dilemmas can be safely dealt with.” (Chodorow, 1991, p.7)
Marian Chace used her own body motion to communicate acceptance and love; she encouraged spontaneous changes in movement patterns through mirroring subtly and through reinforcing new behaviours. This resulted in patients finding new strengths they were unaware of having and feelings of tenderness that they did not dare expressing in their life. An example of empathic reflection taken from my placement is about a client who, for the sake of confidentiality, I have named Pierre:
During the warm down part of the session the group chose to relax to the song, ‘all by myself’, a very emotionally powerful song. Pierre Positioned himself looking out of the window sitting on the floor with his knees bent in to his chest. I immediately sensed his deep Reflection and mirrored his posture, being moved to tears and feeling like I was transported into a galaxy of feelings, so big! He continued to look out of the window and his isolation and fear of not being accepted in the space is what I felt from this
I am not sure if Pierre was aware of me’ being with him’ but, it was a step into his reality. In addition, I felt myself discovering what my feelings were and discerning mine from his, and was able to continue being present.(Personal Journal, November 2010)