We walk together

In my work with clients/patients I sometimes use the written word to help process what they are feeling and what I am feeling about working with them. Last year I spent some time working at a residential drug/alcohol rehab center and wrote a short poem about one experience.

1. We walk together
toe to heal
In the way we came here

Youngest to oldest – Male to female –
Opiate to alcohol – Forceps to stone

2. We all
Everyone of us
walk for a reason

3. Up the hill
we reach the top

4. around the pond and into the trees
A shelter – A holding
in the environment

5. Close your eyes
Notice your breath – As you inhale – as you exhale
Feel the wind – notice the smells – the scent of the earth

The sunlight and shadows sway back and forth to the rhythm of the branches moving in the wind

6. Don’t be afraid – shiver- cry out – weep – scream
We are all killers inside
We are all healers inside
Our blood runs through the veins of our ancestors
And is here to stay – an echo of times now gone

A dream of times yet to come


1. Today I took my clients outside to the park. We walked in a pecking order; the client with the most time were in front followed by the others in order of time, drug of choice, sex, finally by age. It was a metaphor for their life journey, of their choices and circumstances thrust on them from birth.

2. In the clients (and us all) our journey is a reflection of who and where we came from. Our personality and our history. Our wants and needs. Our understanding of these things. In this residential rehab clients have come because of an intersection of factors, both internal and external.

3. The walk with the clients took us up a sharp and steep hill, the last little leg of our walk before we reached the park and the pond. The walk of addiction is a mighty hard row to hoe in the discovery of the self

4. The clients were very happy to see the pond and dogs and people, and we headed for the trees to find some sanctuary. This little stand of trees I felt would be a good holding environment to do a movement meditation in a public space.

5. I led the group through a meditation in the environment, giving them a chance to be calm/passive and feel nature, with its enormous power. Like that higher power that 12 step teaches. Also nature has a rhythm that we, as earthlings cannot escape, it is deep inside us, with us since the womb.

6. In the mediation I encouraged the group to go to where it was safe and to go a little beyond safety, to a new place. Being different (clean/sober) in a setting (park) that is familiar is challenging. They will face that challenge when they leave the rehab. As addicts they must accept their dark side, and they must recognize their light side. This killer and healer is the story of being human, told by all cultures since we first lit a fire and huddled together. It is this story telling that teaches us to remember the mistakes so we know what to do if we make them and know how to avoid them.

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In Dance Movement Therapy (D/MT) transference and counter transference play a crucial role in the therapy session. Understanding the differing theories of transference, where and how they take place, whether on an emotional, physical, cognitive, or neurological level is an important foundation for the effective treatment of a client. It is because transference is primarily an unconscious process that D/MT as an effective avenue into the subconscious can allow for transference actions to become consciously embodied. It is this embodiment of these subconscious processes that allows for the exploration and bringing to light transference and thus one part of ‘healing’ for the client.

In D/MT client(s) move, through posture and/or gesture in ways that is less likely to be censored. For instance, a therapist asks a question and the client hesitates and chooses their words and answers, censoring (either consciously or not) their response. It’s a cognitive process that we all do generally with little thinking or effort. The therapist asks the same questions and directs the client to respond with the hands in a gesture or a posture with a fuller body expression. I’ve noticed over the last twenty some years that people tend to respond/react to this type of direction with the same hesitation and then begin to move in ways that express something rarely captured by words. I believe this is because people are used to censoring their words but less so with the body.

A great example of this is the Stress-less classes I have taught over the years. Participants almost always identify the body as the way they know they are really stressed out. They report grinding their teeth, clenching their fists, clenching their butt muscles, as the primary resources of how they are feeling/thinking. It’s the bodies uncensored expression of what is happening internally that they notice most. In Dance Movement therapy it is what the body says that we notice most.

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Why I dance…

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Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

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Colorado Hairstreak Coloring Page

CPBF-Colorado Hairstreak-TR.jpg

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Assessment and evaluation

In therapy at some point the counselor will engage in an assessment/evaluation  process that generally involves examining how the therapy sessions are going and hopefullyincludes feed back from the client/patient. If the counselor is trained as a
dance movement therapist the evaluation/assessment may include many areas such
as verbal sharing, drawings and movement. Movement assessment can include
observing ( which can be considered seeing someone move objectively) and
witnessing (which can be considered seeing someone move subjectively) a person
move. I look at:

  • Space, how does the person
    move in the environment, up/down, do they use space or stay small.
  • Time, do they move fast/slow.
  • Force, what is their muscle
    tension like, are they contracting/expanding, hard/soft, light/heavy.
  • Flow, is the movement
    continuous, unrestrained, restricted.
  • Sound, do they talk, use
    vocal sound, create sound with their body.
  • Congruent, how are the
    movements related to the intention.
  • What do I feel while
    witnessing, what and how do I feel like moving when witnessing .
  • How does this compare to
    other people I have observed, the same/different.


I first learned and applied these techniques while studying the movement based

group creative arts modalities know as the Halprin Method and Motional Process
in the 80’s and early 90’s. If you would like more info I recommend 4 books I found useful:

Dance/Movement Therapists in Action: A Working Guide to Research Options

Artistic Inquiry in Dance/Movement Therapy: Creative Research Alternatives

Meaning of Movement

Dance Therapy and Depth Psychology: The Moving Imagination.

These books helped me to strengthen my assessment techniques and to discover new

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Minako Seki – Performance: Butoh Dance

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