Encounter: a direct route to empathy
Reviewed By: Christine Havens
Recommended Reading Program: Encounter
Language availability: English
What called you to train to teach embodied 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.
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 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 incorporates a wide range of subjects including the creative arts, body language, emotional intelligence and mind matters. Neuroscience, soul and spirit are also areas that we train in. These are 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.
Is there a principle 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 interactions on and off the dance floor, helping me to accept and ‘include’ as much as I can both the comfortable and the uncomfortable.
How do you hope to serve/contribute to this world using movement as a vehicle?
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.
One of my dreams would be to have this innovative approach become part of the treatment plan for all adult and adolescent mental health clients and also for it to be a support for their health care workers.
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.
My clients have reported finding the use of the OFI Resources of Grounding, Towards and Away, Activating, Settling, Releasing, extremely helpful both on and off the dance floor in terms of resilience and emotional intelligence. What works best is when the work is clear, precise, taking it slowly to embody these core resources. I encourage clients to explore moving and including, to go at their own pace, to follow the movements of their bodies, and be willing to take a risk and do it differently to what they would normally do.
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