How effective is dance therapy with your partner in strengthening the relationship? Is it a part of couple counselling?

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According to American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), Dance and movement therapy (DMT) is defined as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.” DMT is the use of expressive movement and dance as a vehicle through which an individual can engage in the process of personal integration and growth. Couples have a dynamic nonverbal component in their relationship. It makes dance/movement therapy (DMT) a perfect treatment modality for them. Throughout life, individuals seek love and support. Here a partnership is developed through an intimate dance of attachment and integration of two systems. For couples, verbal communication can become a hindrance and DMT can provide them a mode of emotional release without verbal exchange.

In DMT with couples, the therapist invites the couple to an investigation of emotional content using the body (Wagner & Hurst, 2018). Few researches have shown that, in situations where the spouses were trapped in recurring patterns repeatedly expressed in the body’s actions. In dance movement therapy with couples, the therapist tries to mirror the relationship conflicts through bodily movements and tries to create connections between kinaesthetic changes in body movement and the emotional experience in the relationship. The quality of each spouse’s kinaesthetic mirroring of the other’s physical movement (Shuper Engelhard, 2019), and the degree of synchrony in the couple’s joint movement (Shuper Engelhard, 2018), reflect a story of the couple’s emotional experiences in their relationship, and of the degree of their availability to their partner.

Few constructs play important role in DMT with couples and they are:

  • Palm-to-Palm Interaction: When working with a couple, exploration of palm-to-palm connections becomes a useful tool. In this case, DMT therapist suggests, couple to face each other and connect their palms with each other. The palm-to-palm interaction mirrors the usual verbal interaction seen in real life by them.
  • Playing: In dance movement therapy the playful movement between couples reminds them of initial playful days and makes them comfortable around each other’s physical space.
  • Mirroring: Mirroring is used intensively in Dance Therapy with couples. It helps partners to communicate what they are feeling through movements and by mirroring those movements, the partner develops an empathetic understanding for his partner.
  • Joint Movement: Sometimes in DMT sessions, couples are asked to come up with joint movements without any lead. In the session, couples are also asked to pay attention to “what are they feeling” when their partner is making any movement. For example: One partner is taking the lead and deciding all the moves, then the other partner will be asked to reflect upon how they are feeling about it.

Now the question arises, Is DMT a part of couples counselling? The answer is a little complicated. The traditional couples counselling usually does not refer to DMT. Various research studies have proved DMT’s efficacy with couple’s but it is rarely used in a clinical set-up. One can find DMT therapists in multispecialty mental health clinics, where holistic treatment is provided. DMT is a specialized stream of intervention, which can be performed by a specialized group of people with diplomas in the field. The Therapist needs to have a degree in clinical psychology and additional certification as DMT therapist.

Dance and movement have immense capacity to pave the way for healing, the problem is that we sometimes close our minds towards unconventional therapies. We need to be open and move towards the path of healing through movement and creativity. Till the point you are not ready to express, let dance pave the way for communication.

If you are looking for couple counselling in Kolkata, please seek help from a nearby mental health clinic.

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Debabani Bhattacharya
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