MOVING TOWARD COHESION: GROUP DANCE/MOVEMENT THERAPY WITH CHILDREN IN PSYCHIATRY
The above picture includes me in the group, sitting on the floor in front, and the other participants of the recent class I took in Berkeley this past month. The teacher, Bonnie Bernstein, is standing directly behind me in black.
The article written in the Arts in Psychotherapy magazine speaks to dance therapists about the child in an inpatient setting in a psychiatric hospital or setting. Children in this setting are faced with chaotic schedules of interaction with adults as they come and go throughout the day and can trigger feelings of abandonment. Connecting with the child where that child is emotionally is paramount to helping the child. What is most important is to deal with the here and now and stay present with the children and not fall into looking at causes of issues or histories of them. This is a process that energizes the group – to remain present in the moment. Dance movement therapy facilitates changes in movement behavior which can precipitate changes in the psyche. For a successful group to flow, cohesion of group participants is essential. No one should feel left out and all should feel that they are heard and have a turn at whatever activity is presented. Another successful element of group therapy with children is the structure and predictability of the group. This makes the participants feel secure enough to open up to issues as hand. How one feels about moving depends on the individual’s mental image of their own body and the more secure a child feels within their own body the freer they will be in session. Therefore, one of the first tasks of group therapists is to explore each participants body image and determine the emotional attitude about one’s body using movement as the medium. Giving participants new movement activities can facilitate awareness of their bodies. It also gives them the experience of becoming aware of others in the room and how others are moving. After the moving is completed, a verbal discussion of the experience with the participants helps to develop cognitive integration of their emotions and behaviors.