Teacher in Training - Meet Eileen Murray

What called you to train to teach movement?

Having worked as a psychiatric nurse  in a variety of health settings in Australia, Sweden, United Kingdom and Ireland over the past 30 years and in my current role  as  Community Mental Health Nurse in Ireland, I am  acutely aware of how lack of  motivation caused by mental illness can be one of the most  debilitating  factors in mental health settings and cause things to seem insurmountable for clients.  

Research in relation to embodied movement practice shows the benefit to the client; it has been proven to especially reach those clients who are not suitable for the more traditional models of psychotherapeutic interventions. Embodied Movement practice is classified under a family of therapies known as the Arts Therapies, recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence Guidelines (NICE), in the treatment of a range of problems including psychosis; depression; anxiety; bereavement; as well as personality disorders;. eating disorders and mood disorders. These therapies have been shown to help people gain self-awareness, manage symptoms, release tension, increase concentration, self-confidence and improve communication with others, as well as reducing feelings of isolation and exclusion. And it is for this reason that I wanted to train in movement and to bring this  new, innovative and person centered approach to mental health settings in Ireland. This new approach is in line with the recommendations as outlined in the framework of A Vision for Change and other national mental policies in Ireland.

Was there anything that called you specifically about the Open Floor training?

The Open Floor teacher training incorporated a wide range of subjects including the creative arts, body language, the ego, emotional intelligence, group process, mind matters, neuroscience, relationship, soul and spirit, skills that I knew would make my role as a movement teacher in mental health settings all the more interesting and vital. I also liked the philosophy of this training and felt it had a lot of integrity and heart.

What are one or two things or principles you are learning through the training that you use both in your teaching and in your life off the dance floor?

Move and include is a tool that has helped me enormously in my day to day life. Using it has helped me to go from fixed to fluid in my movements and in my interactions on and off the dance floor. I now understand the richness in staying in the awareness of the moment with feelings and thoughts whilst at the same time moving with the momentum bringing together the beautiful correlation between movement and emotion. As a teacher in training, it is my favorite instruction/encouragement to my students as we move to free stuck energy in our bodies and emotions as well as our thinking mind.

How do you hope to serve/contribute to this world using movement as a vehicle?

In many ancient cultures, illness is seen to be caused by a loss of soul and dance is viewed as an important way of bringing people who are sick back to themselves and their life energy I would like to bring this innovative person centered approach into both the adult and adolescent mental health services of hospital and community based settings. Currently as a teacher in training I am delivering a series of Open Floor Movement Practice sessions to mental health multi-disciplinary team members (doctors, psychologists, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists) as well as to clients with a range of problems including psychosis, depression, anxiety, bereavement as well as personality disorders and mood disorders.The response from staff, clients and their families has been very positive and has been especially beneficial to reach those clients who are not suitable for the more traditional models of psycho therapeutic interventions. My clients have reported finding the use of the Open Floor principles of Grounding, Towards & Away, Activating & Settling, Releasing extremely helpful both on and off the dance floor in terms of resilience and emotional intelligence. 

What have you personally received so far in offering Open Floor? 

Offering Open Floor classes on a weekly basis in a mental health setting has been very rewarding in terms of the positive changes I see in clients from week to week. Many times this can be as simple as a smile on a previously unsmiling face, to a willingness and ability to physically move more on the floor. It is very lovely to hear clients who can very often feel the burden of disease/ social stigma/ self stigma/ shyness speak about the joy of feeling more alive and included in the group.