Truth, justice and bodily accountability: Dance movement therapy as an innovative trauma treatment modality

Αbstract

This study surveys contemporary approaches to trauma within dance movement therapy/psychotherapy (DMTP). 17 qualitative English-language studies (2010–2020) were examined using qualitative and embodied arts-based research methods. Trauma was conceptualised as a multi-layered, complex phenomenon for the lived and collective body, isolation, and adaptive survival, reflecting DMTP’s understanding of experiences of individual and systemic harm, the enactive self, dissociation, neurobiology, human rights and wider context. Trauma implicated bodily, intrapsychic, relational, communal, social, economic and structural realms. Goals were safety, freedom, pleasure and agency. Dance was a flexible, multimodal, gestalt container for simple-yet-complex interventions linking inner sensing, creative exploration and enactive movement to meaning-making and cognitive and identity restructuring. Therapeutic competence, ego and relationship to power shaped DMTP’s work with individual and collective trauma. DMTP might consider how to better communicate its approach to treating trauma, relevance of therapist/lived-experience, professional and collective identities and enactive healing-justice approaches to sexual violence.

Aims of research

Survey of contemporary approaches to trauma within dance movement therapy/psychotherapy (DMTP). 17 qualitative English-language studies (2010–2020) were examined using qualitative and embodied arts-based research methods.

Principal research question(s)

Main question: What contemporary approaches to trauma are employed within the field of DMTP?’.
Sub-questions:
(i) Can such approaches be consistently classified, for example, on the basis of conceptualisation of trauma, setting and methodological, intervention and ethical approach?
(ii) How do contemporary DMTP interventions to treat trauma relate to the elements of (a) moving, sensing, feeling, thinking and relating; and (b) the technical, expressive, communicative and performative aspects of dance?

Principal findings

In Dance Movement Therapy/Psychotherapy, trauma was conceptualised as a multi-layered, complex phenomenon for the lived and collective body, isolation, and adaptive survival, reflecting the profession's understanding of experiences of individual and systemic harm, the enactive self, dissociation, neurobiology, human rights and wider context.
Trauma implicated bodily, intrapsychic, relational, communal, social, economic and structural realms. Goals were safety, freedom, pleasure and agency.

Dance was a flexible, multimodal, gestalt container for simple yet-complex interventions linking inner sensing, creative exploration and enactive movement to meaning-making and cognitive and identity restructuring.

Therapeutic competence, ego and relationship to power shaped DMTP’s work with individual and collective trauma.

Future areas for research and action might include:
- improving communication of DMTP's approach to treating trauma to the wider public
- considering the relevance of dual therapist/lived experience identities and professional and collective identities
- developing enactive healing-justice approaches to sexual violence, and their place, if any, within the context of criminal, transitional or other justice systems

Research Supervisors
Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Sabine Koch, Professor Christine Caldwell, Ph.D., LPC, ADTR
Nature of data collection
Qualitative literature review, embodied literature review, multi-modal art practice, performance
Ethical board approving research
SRH Hochschule
Research design
Mixed methods, qualitative, embodied arts-based research
Related publications by members of research team
Review of existing methods for the prevention of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in South Africa
Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
http://www.csvr.org.za/docs/torturereview1208.pdf
Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture: implementation manual
Association for the Prevention of Torture
(co-author)
https://www.apt.ch/sites/default/files/publications/opcat-manual-english-revised2010.pdf

Amnesty International, various publications (1997-2004).
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