Welcome to Alive Inside Arts & Dance Movement Therapy. I qualified as a Dance Movement Therapist with the NZ founder DTNZ and hold a postgraduate diploma in Arts Therapy from Whitecliffe College in Auckland. I offer dance and art therapy sessions from my purpose-built home-based studio in Woolston/Opawa, Christchurch, and also work closely with institutions such as schools and rest homes where I often work in a team of nurses and other professionals.
Both dance and art (or arts) therapy use the creative realm to heal. It is a form of expressive therapy which combines the creative process with psychology to help individuals express themselves. This promotes emotional/personal development/well-being, enhances cognitive function, helps individuals resolve issues and manage behaviours/feelings, and supports healing. Art therapy unlocks the potential to reduce stress, improve one’s emotional state, increase awareness and self-esteem. To do so, it may use a wide range of materials and techniques, which offers the option to include two- or three-dimensional art making, as well as movement and more.
According to the Dance Movement Therapy Association of Australasia, dance therapy is ‘the relational and therapeutic use of dance and movement to further the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and cultural functioning of a person’. In short, the aim is to achieve true well-being on all levels. In movement psychotherapy, your body is the key to facilitate profound healing of feelings which might be trapped within. Dance therapy is based on physical-psychological and scientific knowledge and it emerged as a profession in the US in the 1960s.
What both approaches have in common is that you don’t need any prior knowledge to participate, i.e. you don’t have to be a dancer (or even know anything about dancing) to benefit from dance therapy, and you don’t have to be an artist to do art therapy.
As you can see from reading the definitions above, the lines between art therapy and dance therapy are rather blurred, and this is often mirrored in my sessions. While the focus may be on dance therapy, I often bring in elements of art making and vice versa. I find that this flexibility enhances both healing and growth for my clients.
Dance has been used therapeutically for thousands of years. We all know that moving is good for both body and mind and has an abundance of mental and emotional benefits – as I like to say: ‘Moving is life’. When we move, endorphins are released which make us feel better, and they are the same endorphins that help us concentrate, sleep better, have more energy and arm us for mental/emotional life challenges. Due to the body-mind connection, motion can bring about change/growth of emotion.
We combine elements of dance, movement systems and creative processes with psychological/scientific theories. Since we are trained in understanding the whole body/mind relationship within us, dance therapy sessions are beneficial in clinical, institutional, community and private settings. It is our job to adapt to each client’s needs to provide our therapeutic expertise to facilitate growth and change, using movement to help clients achieve emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration. After establishing a good base of trust and mutual connection, it is our aim for each individual to recognise and (re-)connect with their own full potential.
As mentioned above, you don’t need any experience with dancing (and you won’t be learning dance moves). Dance Therapy is suitable for all abilities. I have worked with clients ranging from toddlers through to elderlies in wheelchairs. You might be surprised how much movement you discover during a therapy session!
A session is usually for 60 minutes. Since each client/group is unique and special in their own way, no dance therapy session is like another. There is no single fixed type of movement style, but we move our bodies mindfully and purposefully. Depending on the client’s needs I may also work with art material. During the session, I will observe and analyse movements and develop a therapeutic programme from there.
In art therapy, creative processes are used to express and explore the unconscious. These may include (a combination of) visual arts such as painting, drawing and sculpture, sand play, drama, music, creative writing and story telling. Art therapists create a safe space for you to let your art making speak for you. This way, behaviour patterns can be detected and you can create new options for coping with problems. Art therapy is a key to foster social, emotional, physical cognitive, spiritual and cultural functioning.
Art therapists help you enhance your well-being through creativity. Highly trained, they have special arts knowledge which, in combination with psychotherapy/counselling skills, supports clients with a wide variety of treatment needs. Art therapists aren’t art teachers. You won’t be taught how to make art, but, with us as facilitators in the art making process, you learn about yourself. Here, my expressive art-based therapy approach supports each client individually within their window of tolerance regarding the physical, mental and emotional pattern. I have learnt to attune deeply with compassion, while holding the space for my clients to promote change within emotions and mind.
You don’t have to be an artist (or even consider yourself especially creative) in order to take part in art therapy. The goal of our sessions is not to create an art masterpiece. The focus lies on the process and cues you communicate through art and to explore the wonders it can work in your life.
First up, there is no one typical arts therapy session. One of the most important things I have learnt during my diploma is that I have to be entirely flexible in every session. My arts therapy approach is guided 100% by the client. Your individual needs lead into a restorative process where visual art-making, maybe words and writing, imagery and/or movement become part of the therapy. Art materials like paper, paint, many different colouring materials, clay, playdough, natural materials and others become props to enhance the restorative process within. During the session, the art-making itself is a journey as the creativity is used to bring light to the unconsciousness, the unspoken voice.
Holistic art and movement psychotherapy has helped people with many things such as:
Mental/emotional health conditions
Eating disorder recovery
Improving their body image & self-esteem
Improving communication skills
Dance movement therapy, of course, helps maintain mobility within the physical body. But, maybe even more importantly, it recognises the life inside the physical body. I am passionate to highlight this life which is in each and every one of us. I love to help clients achieve a feeling of authority again, a feeling of being empowered, felt and seen. I offer dance therapy sessions in rest homes or on an at-home basis.
During my studies, I have worked with patients facing emotional/mental challenges. This has ignited my passion to use dance therapy to help clients achieve more wellbeing through movement. In this field, I see my role as a Dance Therapist as one which is always backed by a team of experienced professionals such as nurses and psychiatrists. Together, we can facilitate movement towards wellbeing.
My aim is to bring out their full potential. They might need help with the physical and/or mental body, where movement patterns/rhythms are less developed, or where there is a disconnection between the outside world and the child’s own inside world. I work with children individually and in groups.