Recovery-Oriented Dance/Movement Therapy

Talia Bendel-Rozow, M.A, registered Dance/Movement Therapist, Israel

Recovery in mental health refers to the acceptance that people experiencing psychiatric disabilities can successfully overcome their challenges and can live productive lives (Deegan, 1988; Farkas & Anthony, 2001). The recovery approach and psychiatric rehabilitation models have been developing since the 1970s in the United States and from there spread to Australia, New-Zealand, Israel, and several European countries.

Anthony (1993) defined recovery as a personal process, in which a change of personal beliefs, attitudes, and goals may occur. Recovery is finding a way to live a meaningful, fulfilling, and satisfying life despite the “limitations caused by the illness” (p. 12). Additionally, “recovery occurs when people with mental illness discover, or rediscover, their strengths and abilities for pursuing personal goals and develop a sense of identity that allows them to grow beyond their mental illness” (Mueser et al., 2002, p.1272). Recovery is a phenomenon that occurs naturally, and proper treatment, as with other medical conditions, supports it (Corrigan & Ralph, 2005). The recovery approach in mental health rehabilitation fundamentally derives from a “person- centered” vision (Rogers, 1951) and sociological approaches. Markowitz (2005) summarized that according to sociological models, mental illness results from a combination of biological tendency and social factors, such as relationships, personal trauma, and poverty, which cause stress and rattle individuals’ psychological state. Based on the understanding that people’s wellbeing and level of functioning are influenced by many different aspects, the recovery approach encourages people experiencing mental illness to get support in all areas of life.

Recovery interventions have been developed following empirical studies aiming to improve consumers’ wellbeing and rehabilitation services (Roe et al., 2007). These interventions include community support and direct skill training, mostly focused on skills of daily functioning (Farkas & Anthony, 2010). Additional interventions have been developed aiming to foster

workbooks and are administered through verbal activities (Onken, Craig, Ridgway, Ralph, & Cook, 2007; Roe et al., 2007).

Since none of the evidenced-based recovery interventions incorporate mind–body techniques or expressive therapies, I have developed a recovery-oriented dance/movement therapy (DMT) group work model that directly address participants’ recovery process. Dance/movement therapy has been found to be an effective intervention for people dealing with mental illness (Koch, Kunz, Lykou, & Cruz, 2014). More specifically, DMT is beneficial in anxiety and depression reduction, in enhancing interpersonal relationships, stress management, and fostering wellbeing (Bräuninger, 2012, 2014; Koch et al., 2014; Punkanen, Saarikallio, & Luck, 2014). These components of quality of life addressed through DMT resonate well with recovery outcomes such as adjustment to the disability, empowerment, and self-determination.

The focus of the recovery-oriented DMT group is on fostering the recovery principles through movement – experientials and processing them. The DMT group session invites the participants to engage in creative processes which would help clarify and deepen their personal exploration, and enable the healing process. The group facilitator aims to create a safe environment and to hold the space in a nonjudgmental atmosphere (Rogers, 1993), for a group of people who come from various backgrounds and bear baggage filled with often painful personal experiences and sensitivities. The role of the group, with guidance and facilitation of the

wellbeing. These interventions such as illness management and recovery

are based on self-help

dance/movement therapist, is to witness, support, and empower the participants. In congruence with the recovery approach, the individuals in the DMT group have shared responsibility to engage in the process and contribute to the group.

A basic assumption of the expressive therapy profession is that creativity is naturally inhabited in people (Halperin, 2003), yet the creativity is often blocked or disintegrated due to life events and the physical-emotional state of the participants. Moreover, the mind-body integration occurs by evolving from the artistic expression of raw feelings or the unconscious, through embodiment of the creative experience, and finally by verbally processing the creative experience (Johnson, 1999; Lusebrink, 1991).

Through the creative activities, the facilitator provides the participants with the opportunity to be authentic and express themselves freely. Self-expression and authenticity can be encouraged by empathy and respect for the participants’ process. Halperin (2013) defined authenticity to be “absolutely connected with the reality” (3:02), the ability to bring all parts of one’s self together. The dance/movement therapists’ role is to help the participants integrate the new knowledge that they acquired from their movement and to associate between the experiences that occurred in the group and real life situations. Another focus of the recovery- oriented DMT is to explore the continuum of past-present-future through movement and helping them connect between their embodied experiences and their current state of functioning. Stating the connections between different people’s experiences enhances the participants’ empowerment, a sense of belonging, and self-worth. These principles and skill sets of expressive therapies also support the recovery model to mental health rehabilitation.

In conclusion, DMT offers a combination of elements that support people with diverse communication and social skills. Used with a recovery oriented focus, DMT might be considered

a useful intervention for processing the concepts of the recovery model and fostering the recovery process for those coping with mental illness.

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