8 December 2010

Internal Organization

The more I explore in the area of early intervention and prevention as a dance/movement therapist, the more I grasp the importance of it. Having undergone personal therapy during training, using movement as an intervention besides verbalising aloud and writing my bodily experiences down cognitively and emotionally, I personally experience the integration of body, mind and emotion and it affects one another. I also experience the internal organisation, that is, rewiring the neurons in the brain through movement experience. However, I come to recognise that the years of the past that I have been holding onto take a much longer time to process as the body and mind have become habitual and they are only familiar to that particular system of functioning.

When I observe the special needs adults, questions keep coming back to me, what if it is intervened at an early stage, would that help them at least to develop a certain spectrum of formation of emotional, social, communicative, cognitive, and physical aspects of self? (Suzi Tortora, 2006) Could the neurons in the brain rewired if early intervention is provided?

I have done observations of mothers and babies using the Emotional Availability Scale and it is obvious that parenting relationships play a crucial role in the developmental of a baby. On top of that, I used Kestenberg Movement Profile for observation for a research and presentation, it was clear that the baby signals distress or a danger ‘sign’ through movements. I believe that the nature , that is, the genes of each child are unique. Nevertheless, the nurture comes in after and does influence the growth of a child.

Whether it is a healthy baby or with special needs, their ways of understanding the world is most of the time through their bodies and senses. The core self is formulated through the interaction with others who are the caregivers. Suzi Tortora shared, ‘The formation of self comes from both the sensed and the perceived feelings evoked from an experience because it is through a baby’s early felt experiences on a physical level that his or her initial sense of self will develop.’ (2006)

It is true that special needs have certain limitations due to the neurological issues. But what I often observe is that when early intervention is not emplaced, there is a possibility that the growth is stunted much below their capabilities, perhaps parents are clueless on what to do and how to intervene.

I once volunteer to do movement sessions with the children suffering from autism. It was not a therapy session but a movement session for them to explore tactile and giving them the space just to be themselves while I observed, then moved and connected with them by entering into their world. One child left a very deep impression. I was informed that the child had been all over the place and was hard to connect with him. However, in the movement, I connected with him and he allowed me into his world after sometime. The adult who was at present was totally surprised and quickly picked up on how to engage and connect with him in movement. I knew something has taken placed then. It was only a very short encounter yet after the session, he even came to make contact with me.

Only if we understand from their perspectives and enter into their world, we are then able to connect with them. I often find movement speaks volume and is the only way they can express to us and how we can in return attune and make contact with them if we wait, watch, observe and listen to them, and at the same time becoming aware of our own responses to children. (Suzi Tortora, 2006)

Suzi T. (2006). The Dancing Dialogue: using the communicative power of movement with young children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

16 November 2010

What does a therapist do?

I have been receiving emails from Singapore and even Malaysia and India, asking me about dance/movement therapy. I'm glad that people are showing more and more interest in it and even want to become one themselves.

A very interesting question was asked recently whether I do therapy with my family, loved ones and close friends. I realise that people are still very new to what therapy is and sometimes I feel that sometimes people are still afraid that a therapist will disclose what was going on in therapy. Here I would like to clarify.

Ethic regulation and boundary setting of the profession

Firstly, I separate my professional field and personal life, that is, drawing a line, setting a boundary. I don’t put on my therapy hat and play the role of a therapist in my private life. What I have shared in the notes is mainly to show how a process is like and how a therapy can be. I can listen and give my empathetic presence to a family member and/or a friend, but I don’t do therapy with them out of therapy setting. I don’t do therapy with my immediate family members and my spouse. If they need therapy, they have to seek another professional to do so. I do share about my process with my husband and sister, it is out of a sharing context so that they understand and know where I am at. They can support me if I am having a difficult time. That was during my training where I underwent a personal therapy.

If a closed friend needs a therapy, they have to engage me for a personal therapy, in a proper arranged time setting. I don’t mix up my personal life and professional life. Usually I will state that very clearly to anyone. Let say if that person happens to be my client, out of therapy setting, I don’t discuss what goes on in the therapy and I don’t talk about it. Unless the client himself/herself reveals that he/she is having therapy with me. I don’t disclose information to anyone. Whatever is in the therapy is strictly kept confidential between me and the client. Even in a group therapy, the same applies for everyone. If the client wants to talk about it out of therapy setting, I won’t do it but will gently say that we look at it in the therapy sessions. All these ethical rules are clearly mentioned in the intake itself before the actual therapy takes place.

How does a therapist work?

As a dance/movement therapist, I am consciously aware that I carry the culture from the angle of a dance/movement therapist. On top of that, my religion, my culture and experiences in my life have an influence and impact on my thinking and beliefs. Thus, I have certain bias in certain areas. However, with the awareness and constantly examination of myself through reflection on where I am coming from, what influences my thinking and beliefs help me during my work with my clients, I have to make sure that they don’t overspill and influence the process of my clients. I base my intervention from what the materials the clients bring in. Through personal therapy, the process allows a trainee to have a deeper understanding and insight to who we are, what bias we carry, what sort of beliefs we have, and what influences have impacted on us. That is why it is compulsory that we have supervision regularly. In fact, it has changed even the whole aspect of my own personal growth as a person, not just professionally.

Difference between workshops/sessions and therapy

Quite a number of participants confused the workshops with therapy. A workshop is not a therapy. Since my title is a therapist, they tend to think that the workshop/session is a therapy. It is not. The nature of my workshops allow the participants to develop an awareness of their body sensations, feelings and thoughts, a time and space to explore and to feel at the non-verbal movement level. I don’t do therapy in the workshops. It’s true that it’s inevitable that the feelings of certain issues would arise as one explores deeper and further into oneself. Therefore, they may want to consider taking that into a therapy if they feel the need for it. Even in authentic movement session, it is very deep and normally we will journal and reflect our own process further at home.

Dance therapy in itself is very rich and wide and each therapist has his/her own style of working. After our education, we often choose the kind of population we want to work with even though we are trained to work with all population. Some may choose to specialise in movement analysis whereas some choose to focus on mindfulness, for example. There is no right or wrong. A client chooses what he/she feels comfortable with and the chemistry between the therapist and the client is also important. For example, if a client doesn’t feel inclined to the style of a particular therapist, it is all right to choose another. For me, I would prefer that the client feels comfortable with me, if not, I will just recommend another colleague of mine instead. It does not hurt me at all. Or if another colleague is specialised in working with a specific problem, I will refer the client to my colleague. We work as a community, we don’t work alone. That’s why we have a body organisation who governs and supports our professional field. If a therapist only thinks about himself/herself, the professional field will die its natural death in the end.

14 November 2010

Dance Therapy on NICU, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Not many dance movement therapists are working in this area in the health sectors with babies in NL, even with healthy babies unless in a private practice settings. More research and sharing are needed to be done to educate not only the other professionals but also people who are working with the babies including parents how to observe, interact and communicate with babies. Brigitta shared about her experiences in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as a dance movement therapist with the babies.


5 November 2010

The Differences between Childbirth Education, Pregnancy Yoga and Attuning to Body and Baby using Dance Movement Psychotherapeutic Approaches

Is there a difference?

I have attended a childbirth education course for my own knowledge and learning purposes and went through yoga sessions for a period of time in my younger days. I observed yoga sessions which my parents conducted. It came to my knowledge that there are pregnancy yoga classes available nowadays as well. I’m delighted that more and more awareness is being shared in the area of preparing for parenthood by professionals such as midwives, doula and even yoga pregnancy instructors. However, I have come to realize that they focus more on the anatomy of the body and providing support in preparation for the delivery. Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that these classes are not beneficial. I would still strongly encourage every parent-to-be to attend childbirth education and pregnancy yoga classes. I find they are important and one of the ways to prepare for pre-, during and post- delivery. The instructors are trained in their expertise and I am in fact very impressed with their work. They also touch on breathing and relaxation techniques and preparing mothers to have a positive childbirth experience. The also stress on how fathers can support them during the delivery.

Aletha shared, “One does not become a parent at the birth of a baby, but rather at conception.’ As maternal emotions can influence babies before birth and besides, pregnancy itself can bring physical problems as well as powerful, unfamiliar emotions (Aletha, 2001).

However, I do come to recognise that issues from childhood and a mother’s own experiences at birth can be triggered off if these were traumatic. In classes like child birth education and yoga classes, therapy is not addressed. In order to do so, one has to be formally trained as a psychologist, psychotherapist or therapist. I believe in early intervention and prevention. With existing childbirth education and yoga pregnacy classes, I have reflected and pondered whether that would be sufficient. Questions like how I can, as a dance/movement therapist, support and help parents especially mothers to develop a keen sense of awareness towards self and their baby in their womb as they journey towards parenthood, along with the possibilities of some issues that may emerge. I observed and participanted in the course of my fieldwork with the pregnant mothers how the therapist worked with them. And I have also worked with some mothers-to-be. Pregnacy is a process and emotions can be evoked in mothers and even fathers. This is so even after the birth of the child.

Besides that, using dance/movement psychotherapeutic approaches and the kestenberg movement profile, the parents are given the opportunity to re-discover the movement patterns of babies, which differ a great deal from adults movement patterns (Kestenberg, 1980). The difference between this and other pregnancy classes is that parents are not only prepared for the birth process but also initial development of the relationship between parent and child (Kestenberg, 1980).

Kesterberg describes the results of this training process:

‘This training not only brought them into a type of communication with the fetus, but it taught them to consider the fetus as a partner, an idea which then pervaded their deliveries. They were aware of the fetal movement during labour and had a feeling of continuity fom the inside to the outside by observing the movement of the baby as soon as it was born. The expectation that one can recognise the baby by the way it had moved inside of the mother strengthened the feeling of belonging mothers develop after the initial estrangement from the infant. (1080, p.59). '

Mothers, therefore, will develop an intution and attunement towards the babies in their womb using fetal notation based on the kesternberg movement profile. In doing so, they also learn to listen to their own responses, feelings, body sensations in the process and to trust them. The uniqueness of the sessions is that they are not just grounds for learning, but also support groups being contained in a safe setting and space where mothers come to share. They may also work on current tissues brought in by the mothers who attend.

To conclude, I would encourage mothers to go for childbirth education and pregnancy yoga classes to prepare the body for a positive childbirth experience and to further enhance the attunement and awareness of self and towards your fetus. Attuning to body and baby using dance movement psychotherapeutic approaches sessions will provide that necessary support for mothers.
(Sessions on Embody Your Body and Baby are available now. Email dancetherapy@gmail.com for more details outline of the sessions and registration form.)
Article on Attuning to Body and baby using Dance/Movement Approaches can be found here.


Loman, S. 1980. The Prenatal Project. Child development Research News, 2(1).

Loman, S. 1992. Attuning to the Fetus and the Young Child: Approaches from the Dance/Movement Therapy. Keene, New Hamspire: Antioch New England Graduate School.

Solter, A, J. 2001. Aware Baby, revised edition. Goleta, California: Shining Star Press.

*Note: Some issues that surface may need a personal individual therapy beside a group session.*

27 October 2010

Attuning To Body & Baby Using Dance/Movement Approaches

"I can feel my baby kicking!" "He is pressing against my belly!" "She is moving at this side of my belly now." When a mother starts to feel her baby's movement in the womb, it is like a magical feeling, to feel and sense the little miracle within. Probably she can't wait to see, carry, feel, hug and communicate with her baby physically. Is it possible to interact with her baby when he/she is still in her womb? With Dance Movement approaches and Fetal Notation using Kestenberg Movement Profile (KMP), a mother is able to experience and learn how to attune to her unborn baby and learn to listen to the changes in her body and prepare for the delivery and coming of her baby.

Every pregnant mother will feel the changes of her body undergoes the moment the embryo is implanted in the womb. One mother's experience differs from another. The growth of the fetus in each trimester brings about not just changes, but the wonder of the day the fetus beginning his/her first movement in the home of the womb. A new phase, a new life, a new experience. A new mother or an experienced mother, usually carries the feelings of joy, excitement, probably some fears and even anxiety. Each pregnancy is often different and unique as each mother and her unborn baby is special.

In Dance Movement approach, mother will move and learn how to listen and attune to her body and her unborn baby in her own space and time with herself and the baby within her. It can be in the form of dance with music where she will dance with her unborn baby or just being still with him/her. Her feelings, sensation and visualization can also be done in drawing and in her journal. The focus and theme often begin with what is the needed for the mother where every mother in the group will share their feelings, encounters and experiences and usually express them in movement.

Mother is also taught the 10 rhythms from KMP and to move in the rhythms. The rhythms are founded by Judith Kestenberg based on the development phase of the baby. Mother will also learn the KMP massage where it will help her to proceed into fetal notation. In fetal notation, she will notate the movement of her baby in her womb and she also learns how to attune and communicate with her hands in return. In this way of attuning, the communication between mother and child has already begun. The continuity of the attunement will follow through in birth and after.

In addition, mother learns how to pay attention and listen to the changes in her body and how to soothe the discomfort such as tension and strain by breathing and doing exercises using lengthening, widening and bulging. These help her to ease the tension and strain which may result as the gestation moves into the later phases.

Isn't it a wonder to be able to communicate with your little ones even in the womb and begin the journey the moment you know you are expecting? To listen and attune not only to yourself but also with your little miracle in the home of your womb. The journey thus begins... You and Your unborn baby!

By Elizabeth Rutten-Ng, dance movement therapist, Article published in Today's Motherhood Online Magazine, January 2010 Issue.

*The sessions for Embody Your Body & Baby  commences on 3 Nov, email dancetherapy.kmp@gmail.com for sessions details outline and registration form.*

25 October 2010

Fase en Sociaal Emotioneel Ontwikkelings van een baby tot kind

  • 1 : 0-6 mnd ~ eerste adaptatie
  • 2 : 6-18 mnd ~ eerste socilaisatie
  • 3: 13-36 mnd ~ eerste individuatie
  • 4: 3- 7 jaar  ~ eerste identificatie
  • 5: 7-12 jaar ~ realiteitsbewunstwordig
Sociaal Emotioneel Ontwikkeling
  • Emotionele Ontwikkeling
  • Sociale Ontwikkeling
  • Ik- Ontwikkeling
  • Morale Ontwikkeling
  • Psycho-seksuele Ontwikkeling

9 October 2010

Bonding with your Baby Session

Bonding with your baby in movement using baby Sling

In close contact with your baby
Using the KMP in movement

5 October 2010

Personal Therapy as Learning Therapy

The word 'Therapy' can cause some to shirk, some, curiosity. What is exactly therapy? It seems that a lot of people have misused or abused the term, 'Therapy' without knowing what the meaning stands for. 

To be a therapist/psychotherapist (each country and organisation have their own regulation) whether it is a dance/movement therapist/psychotherapist or other creative arts therapist, one has to be trained because one has to be equipped in their field and understand the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). To name a few, the dance/movement therapy education encompasses psychology/psychotherapy, developmental psychology, psychopathology, therapeutic schools and interventions, dance therapy theory and methods, dance therapy group process and dynamics, laban movement analysis, anatomy/kinesiology, research and methodology. Some university may vary in some subjects but generally, an accredited university covers most of the subjects.

When you seek a therapist, make sure you check on his/her credential and background. A dance/ movement session can have therapeutic effect, but it is not a therapy. Dance in its nature has therapeutic elements but it is different from a dance/movement therapy session. 

Hereby I would like to share about the aspects of personal therapy as a learning therapy.

Professional Training - personal therapy as a learning therapy

In the training, most universities have made it compulsory that a trainee undergoes personal therapy during the education. Personal therapy here is also can be known as a form of learning therapy and for personal developments. One would question, 'I don't have major issues in my life, why should I go through personal therapy?' Isn't therapy only for those with real psychological problems? 

Each of us comes from different background, upbringing, social influences, culture, experiences... each of us carries a different lens and view the world in our own perspectives and understanding. Each of us may carry a certain bias and prejudice. It is important and crucial to heighten self-awareness, a deeper understanding and insight of oneself (Rutten-Ng, 2009).

In my final paper, I discovered the importance of identifying, exploring, and in my case, the need to resolve the 'blind spots' (Rutten-Ng, 2009). Freud recognised that a therapist's 'blind spots' can interfere with the materials presented by the clients as we use ourselves as an instrument in the therapy process (Duthiers, 2005). Schoop (2000) also shared 'once we have recognised and dealt with them, they won't have a negative influence on our work.' 

Often, resistance and avoidance will emerge when one has to confront with oneself, especially when it is a non-verbal movement, whether it is a personal therapy, in training or workshops. The idea of having to move can bring about fear of revealing oneself. Sometimes, to express verbally is already difficult, what more if it's a non-verbal movement. According to Casey, the body carries the memory of the traumatic experiences and it contains sensations of painful experiences (Pylvaninen, 2003). From my experience, sometimes, nothing happens; sometimes, resistance and avoidance come; and sometimes, it can be overwhelming. It is to allow what is happening at the present moment to be where one is at.

I chose to do dance/movement therapy for my personal therapy as I believe in the integration of the body, mind, emotion and the spirit (Rutten-Ng, 2009). Dance/movement therapy has certain attributes of the humanistic school of psychotherapy which includes the body, mind and spirit, and 'aims at the awareness and expression of affect or feelings' (Seier & Wastell, 2003, p.39). It uses movement to explore feelings throughout the body, identifies the blockage to feelings and permits expression of the whole person (Seiser & Wastell, 2002).

Movement often brings to light what the body-memory contains. Casey defined it as habitual body-memory which means the active presence of the individual's past in the body and the contents are constantly in the background of human experience (Pylvaninen, 2003).

The benefits of personal therapy are not just for personal growth, process and development (Rutten-Ng, 2009) but also to 'therapists' professional functioning' (Duthiers, 2005). Schoop (2000) pointed out that the knowledge of our own difficulties makes it possible for a therapist to have a better understanding of the difficulties of others. Macran, Stiles,and Smith (1999) also found out that therapists translated their experiences in personal therapy into ways of being a therapist themselves.

I don't just encourage only professional fields who are working with people, be it a teacher, nurse, doctor, psychologist, therapist, coach, caregiver, trainer... to go for personal developments, but anyone who wants to develop a deeper self-awareness and insight towards oneself.

Duithers, L.J. (2005) Countertransference awareness and therapists' use of personal therapy. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses . Alabama, Aubrun. Http://gradworks.umi.com/31/89/3189270.html

Macran, S., Stiles, W.B. & Smith, J.A. (1999). How does personal therapy affect therapists' practice? Journal of Counseling Psychology, 35, 385-390. 

Pylvanainen, P. (2003). Body Image: A tripartite model for use in dance/movement therapy, American Journal of Dance Therapy. 12(1), 39-55.

Rutten-Ng, E. (2009). How does personal therapy affect an intern in becoming a dance/movement practitioner: personal growth and processes. Unpublished paper, Postgraduate programme in dance therapy, Codarts, University for the Arts in Rotterdam.

Schoop, T. (2000). Motion and emotion, American Journal of Dance Therapy, 22(2) 91-101.

Sieiser, L. & Watsell, W. (2002). Interventions and techniques. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press.

4 October 2010

My Final Paper

How does personal therapy affect an intern in becoming a dance/movement
practitioner: personal growth and processes

This paper is based on a personal reflection of an intern on how personal
therapy has played a role in influencing her in becoming a dance/movement
practitioner with supervision and on-site supervision. It draws upon certain
themes and learning points in her personal therapy and internship where they
were critically reflected from her journals and reflection notes.

Key words:
anger, clashes, dance/movement practitioner, empathy, closure, intern,

internship, personal therapy, placement, supervision, transactional theory

This was my concluding final paper for my final year. If you're interested in reading the paper, please email dancetherapy@gmail.com.

22 September 2010

Embodied Self-Awareness Sharing

Each one of us has the innate ability to embody self and develop a sense of awareness of our body, mind and emotion. It is the basic core of human nature. However, due to the advance growth of technology and constant busyness, we often lost touch with our basic. Running the embodied self-awareness sessions, it is a time and space for the participants to be in touch with the basic: body, mind and emotion as well as having fun and exploring creativity in movement, art and music. The nature of the sessions is to develop a non-judgemental attitude towards self and not to avoid what may come forth in exploring ourselves and embody them. As Alan Fogel has explained, 'Embodied self-awareness involves being in a subjective emotional present... ..., without judgement and without trying to escape from it.’(The Psychophysiology of Self-awareness, 2009). Thus, as I reflected upon what is the purpose of these sessions, I have written a poem on it.

“A time for yourself,
A space to explore,
To feel, to move, to flow, to listen,
To embody the whole you,
In connection with
Your body, mind, emotion and spirit."
~ Elizabeth Rutten-Ng 
I hope that the sessions will lead the participants back to basic, and rediscovering the innate ability of self-awareness and especially a time and space for oneself to be free, to be where they are at, to play, to have fun, and to move.  A time just by being with oneself, in body, mind and emotion. One can be surprised that a simple movement even it is basic and done many times, is always a different experience when we are open to what it may bring us. The reason is that our journey is ever constant moving, changing, and always in a process. We grow, we change, we evolve! That's the beauty of who and how we are!

P/s: Embodied Self-Awareness has evolved from two parts: feet and body, in the future, it will be developed into a continuous sessions with themes. You can view the feedback and art pieces in the sharing of process by the clients.

21 September 2010

Embodied Self-Awareness NL

The sharing of the art process in the Embodied Self-Awareness Part one. Thank you to the participants for sharing their pieces with consent. 

13 September 2010

Special Feature Interview with Michelle Liew

I have the honour to interview Michelle Liew, a secondary school teacher in Singapore. She has been my long time good friend. I met her during my training as a teacher in National Institute of Education. The first impression that strikes me about her is her joyfulness, her incredible beautiful voice and talent in music. She has been a cancer survivor since the age of 10 and due to her tumour, her brain was affected and she is diagnosed to have ADHD as an adult. However, her determination, perserverance in life and her faith in God, she has walked through obstacles and hurdles, having to cope with the effect of cancer and operation. I greatly admire her spirit to fight despite the problems. She has attended my dance/movement (therapy) approaches workshops in Singapore this year, namely, ‘Embodied Self-Awareness Part 1 & 2’, ‘Authentic Movement’ and ‘Moving in Rhythm’. This exclusive interview will feature about her life and how she has benefited from the workshops. 

E (Elizabeth): How do you feel when you learnt that you have brain tumour when you were a little girl?

M (Michelle): Disturbed, of course, but I faced it bravely because I knew I could not do anything
else but that. So when anyone asks me how I could face an operation bravely, I would answer that I had no other choice. 

E: Has it been very difficult for you since then?

M: It has of course. It’s difficult for anyone to interact with someone with facial

paralysis, especially children, whom I face daily. Having been taught that hygiene is
important, they shirk whenever they see my nose run. I would get some awkward
comments, which I found really hard to live with at first. But I have developed coping
mechanisms like carrying my trusty tissue pack around. 

E: What kept you going during these years?

M: Pure determination and faith in God. My husband has been a constant source of

support both financially and emotionally. 

E: From your sharing, I know that you were diagnosed recently as ADHD adults. How did you feel when you are diagnosed as ADHD?

M: Unsurprised, really. I suspected as much because the sort of forgetfulness I experience

is uncommon. It is both constant and difficult to deal with because it happens too
frequently. Supplements have helped to lessen the fatigue that I feel. 

E: What is most difficult part of being an ADHD adult?

M: People not being understand why you make simple mistakes like noting

things wrongly or writing them on the wrong piece of paper.

E: How did you cope with it?

M: I have many different types of To Do Lists and my computer helps a lot. One also

has to make the effort to write things down and leave things in specific places so that
one can find them. 

E: Why do you want to attend the workshops?

M: I needed a form of relaxation and getting back to mental equilibrium. I need the

balance because I sometimes feel that I put in lots of effort into things that are either
unappreciated or sometimes do not bear fruit no matter how hard I try. Therapy is a
way of getting back to myself. 

E: How are your experiences in the workshops?

M: Comforting. I especially liked the 'Moving in Rhythm' session where I got to know more about personal rhythms
because I knew more about motivation and what my driving forces are. 

E: What struck you most during the workshops?

M: How we can synergize with people just by using their personal rhythms. If a snappish

sort of person has a biting rhythm, we counteract it with a gentler rhythm or avoid it
with another kind of rhythm. 

E: Having attended the workshops, do you find a change in you? If so, what have changed you?

M: I know about myself and like myself better. I also realize how we can look for areas

where we can synergise with others. 

E: Have the workshops helped you in your daily life now? If so, how have they helped you?

M: Awareness of my own personal rhythm helps me to be aware of how I can either

avoid using it on others or choose another sort of rhythm to counteract it.
Being aware of myself through movement also develops self esteem.

E: What would like your readers to take home with them today?

M: That where there’s a will, there is a way. As long as you believe in that, and of course,

in God himself. 

Thank you Michelle for your time and sharing about your life and experiences.

17 August 2010


 'When I look, I am seen, So I exist.' 
~ Winnicott, 1971/1982,  p.114

Be it a baby, a child or an adult, in the therapeutic settings, as dance/movement therapists, we validate our clients, not only verbally, but also, non-verbally, in movement. It's important that they're being acknowledged, validated, to say, 'We understand, we hear you, you're seen, you exist.' It does not have to take place only in a therapy room, but as well as in our daily life, we can do likewise to our loved ones, family members, friends, colleagues and even a stranger in the street with a smile. Often the hearts glow and their face brighten up. Watch this video on 'Validation' and I'm sure every one of us recognises it in us that we would like to be validated. If you can, give someone today, even your pet, the validation of love.

Winicott, Donald W. (1971/1982). Playing and Reality. New York: Taristock Publications.

10 August 2010

Make Over-Style By Jesus! Relive My Passion! Part 2

'There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.'

The bible passage on "A time for everything" in Ecclesiasttes 3:4 has a very significant meaning especially as I grow and being made over and style by Jesus. I love this particular passage and it was a piece I used in my drama exam. I reflected: what does each time mean to me and how I will resonate each word in it? Looking at it today, every single activity has reflected a time of my growth as a person in body, mind, emotion and spirit. In part 1, I wrote on 3 elements on voice, feelings and body. In part 2, I will relate to the passage here on how Jesus has transformed, changed and moulded me, into an educator, into a wife, into a dance therapist.

'A time to be born and a time to die'
~ I was born, not a pretty baby but with wrinkles all over my face and body, this is how my mum would always share about my birth. Being under nourished, I was often a sickly child with constant medication of antibotics. Often than not, I would get sinus with migraine and also bad cases of eczema. My mum was very strict with my diet. The early years of influence of my mum have actually plays a part in my later life. It is easy for me to advocate a healthy eating lifestyle. After I have turned to herbal medicine by Sebastian Liew and a change of certain diet and detox, I hardly have sinus and eczema for more than 10 years. I was born with them but they die when I take the steps to a better healthy living and taking care of my body. My body is renewed. Focusing on food alone is not enough. When I underwent training as a dance therapist, self-care is one of the main part of knowing my body, learning to nurse and be kind to my body, not to beat my body up, to listen and attune to the signals of tiredness, pain, aches...that my body will tell me. I have developed a close relationship with my own body, and not to take it for granted.

'A time to plant and a time to uproot'
 ~ The movie 'Inception' based on how a new idea is planted into the unconscious state of mind and uproots what is present and alter the thoughts through the different stages of dreams, going into layers and layers of the state of sub-conscious and unconscious mind, having to deal with the unknown projections of the person. I find this movie provoking a lot of thoughts and reflections. During my study, I have discovered how the state of my mind has been planted. And it also came a time where I have to 'uproot', that is, reconstructing the negative aspect of my thoughts and beliefs during the discovery and process in my personal therapy (part of my training). I came to have a deeper understanding and insight of who I am, where I am coming from and what caused me to be stuck in the rut. Having living in the comfort zone of holding onto the past for many years, when it was time to uproot, work on it and let it go, it was not an easy journey. However, the mind is renewed and it takes time to fill them with new positive thoughts, thus inception takes place, a new idea is being planted. And my mind is rewired.

'A time to kill and a time to heal'
~ This has many similarities to the writing above. To 'kill off' what doesn't belong and to heal the wounds and mend the wounded scars in the heart. It takes time and time does heal. I took time to mend my broken wounded heart. My heart is made whole again with stitches, threading them together and putting the heart back as a whole piece. Each scar carries a tale of my personal life story and when the thread gets lose or snaps, I nurse it by listening to them and take time to mend the tear with a loving stitch and let the time heal the wound. I don't push it away but embraces when it comes, the tears, the pain, the brokenness, the anger, the fear, the guilt... this is part and parcel of a human heart. Comes the joy, comes the tears, comes the love, comes the hurt...What I learnt is to embrace, listen, express, nurse and not to ignore, push it away  or suppress it. Each time I nurse, the wound gets smaller and soon the heart may be covered with lots of thread but the heart is contained and filled with love of nursing.

'A time to tear down and a time to build'
~ In the past, I tear myself down till nothing was left. Confidence scattered. Self-esteem shattered. Never would I ever thought I could build myself up again. I was a very good student and did fairly well, however, I would always tear myself down during the final main exam like PSLE, O and A Level. I was not good enough. I was stupid. I beat myself up. As in Part 1, I shared the break through came after my drama exam. From there, I slowly came out of my nut shell and slowly I found my innate gifts. Soon I followed my passion of my dreams. Never would I ever dream that I would become a dance/movement therapist, my first ever childhood passion - dance.  The period of tearing myself down was long enough and it's time to build myself up. If I would to use it in a positive aspect, I tear down what I believe I could not do and give myself the chance and opportunity again to build what I believe I have and I can do and good in. It takes patience and time to build just like a builder lays its foundation of the house. It has taken me years of training from the day I started my study in drama, teaching then now to being a therapist. Each pillar forms the strong foundation of the house.

'A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance'
~ A season of tears, a season of laughter, a season to rejoice, a season to mourn. I share the tears, joy, laughter not only with my family, my soulmate but also with my clients. Moments of where tears are shed, moments of where laughter fills the room, moments of mourning over the lost of a loved one, or mourning to dying to your old self and letting it go, moments where victory reigns, a time to rejoice in overcoming of barriers, a time to laugh and have fun, not afraid of being a free child again. I love this intangible thing called, 'Heart, Feelings, Emotions'. Without them, life is so dull, without them, human would be like robots. I allow myself to cry, giving myself permission to mourn, and dance where the body feels the beats, laugh like a child when it tickles me.

I will continue the other part of sharing in Part 3.

28 July 2010

Sharing of Moving From Within Congress 2010 in Freising

"I moved & be moved from within"

The congress in Germany which took place on 24th has been en enriching experiences. I not only moved but was also being moved from within, in body, mind and emotion. The theme was based on movement analaysis of interaction. Speakers from United States, Germany, Netherlands and United Kingdom were invited or participated in holding workshops, talks on their works and research. 

I'm particularly keen in movement analysis between mother and babies/children and culture. I've chosen two of the workshops shared by Suzi Tortora and Christine Caldwell. I've long to hear Suzi Tortora personally and had the chance to watch her videos of her work with mothers, babies and children. My passion and vision to work with mothers and babies as well as pregnant mothers are renewed. And soon I will take steps to pursue and fulfil the calling of my heart's desire and working towards my goals. 

Christine Caldwell shared about the diversity issues in movement analaysis and assessment. I can sense that she is passionate about her work and research. Her courage to take on this research, which is often deemed as a sensitive topic and taboo, is admirable. She challenged each of us as therapist to take a step further, to look at our professional field, with a different lens, to be cultural competency. Culture has become one of the area of interest ever since I studied dance therapy. From her workshop, it encourages me not to be afraid to confront and question myself as a therapist, as a person and to be cultural competence in my work. It also opens up my mind, perception and to review my role as a therapist when I work with my clients. And also to embrace the humility of not knowing, to continue to grow and learn in the process as a young growing therapist. 

Neuroscience is another field which is also brought to our attention and they are becoming more and more interested in understanding our work and how movement has a connection and affecting the brain and mind, such as rewiring the neurons in the brain.

This congress has helped me to anchor my plans, goals and steps that I want to take, to pursue not only as a practitioner, but also as a researcher. 

A time, a chance to reconnect with friend, senior, teachers and to party and dance. What's more can I ask for in a congress. I'm glad that I've attended and gained more than what I've expected. A worthwhile, fruitful learning experience!

13 July 2010

Therapy as a Dress Rehearsal for Life by Yalom

The chapter 'Therapy as a Dress Rehearsal for Life' from the book, "The Gift of Therapy" written by Irvin D. Yalom gives a good explanation what therapy should do and help a person and also an idea what therapy is. I would like to share this chapter with you. I'm often enlightened, inspired, refreshed, renewed, reaffirmed by his words on being a therapist. A book worth keeping for a therapist.

'Many  therapists cringe when they hear critics characterize their work as merely the "purchase of friendship." Though there is a grain of truth in this statement, it does not merit a change. Friendship between therapist and patient is a necessary condition in the process of therapy - necessary, but not, however, sufficient. Psychotherapy is not a substitute for life but a dress rehearsal for life. In other words, though psychotherapy requires a close relationship, the relationship is not an end - it means to an end.

The closeness of the therapy relationship serves many purposes. It affords a safe place for patients to reveal themselves as fully as possible. More than that, it offers them the experience of being accepted and understood after deep disclosure. It teaches social skills: The patient learns what an intimate is possible, even achieveable. Lastly, and perhaps most important of all, is Carl Roger's observation that the therapy relationship serves as an internal reference point to which patients can return in their imagination. Having once achieved this level of intimacy, they can harbour the hope and even the expectation of similar relationships.

One often hears of patients (in either group therapy or indvidual therapy) who are excellent patients or group members, yet remain essentially unchanged in their external lives. They may relate well to the individual therapist or may be key members of groups - self-disclosing, working hard, catalyzing interaction - and yet do not apply what they have learned to their outside situation. On other words, they use therapy as a substitute rather than a rehearsal for life.

This distinction may prove useful in termination decisions. Behaviour change in the therapy situation is obviously not enough: patients must transfer their change into their life environment. In the late stages of therapy, I am energtic in ensuring transfer of learning. If I deem it necessary, I begin to coach actively, to press the patient to experiment with new behaviors in work, social, and family settings.'

29 June 2010

Detachment and Compartmentalization

I find that the write out in the book "The Psychophysiology of Self-Awareness" by Alan Fogel is useful and would like to share it here from the extract of his book.

He has defined pathological dissociation, by following the lead of Homlmes et. al. (2005) in two basic forms: detachment and compartmentalization.

Detachment is "characterized by a sense of separation (or 'detachment') fom certain aspects of everyday experience, be it as their body (as in out-of-body experiences), their sense of self (as in depersonalization), or the external world seen in the form of entering a trancelike state in which the person seems to be frozen and immbolized, falling asleep, or creating a "pretend persona (happy, rich, playful, sexy) which is different from the more troubled "real" person.

Out-of-body experience (OBE) is a type of detachment, as the perception of self but from a distant location; the preceiver is often experienced as floating above their detached body and sees their body as if it was that of another person (Blanke et. al., 2005). Depersonalization syndrome is a feeling of iving outside one's body and outside the world. There is a feeling of separation from the self and a sense of emptiness (Fuchs, 2005).

Compartmentalization, the other form of dissociation besides detachment, "incorporates dissociative amnesia and the 'unexplained' neurological symptoms characteristics of the conversion disorder, such as conversion paralysis, sensory loss, seizures, gait disturbance, and pseudo-hallucinations" (Holmes et. al., 2005, p. 7)

Somatization occurs when people become absorbed in, dwell on, and amplify their inner experiences to the point of exaggerating their importance. They may interpret otherwise benign sensations in the chest as a heart condition and seek medical attention. They have a tendency toward hypochondriasis. (unnecessary use or overuse of medication and medical testing) and they exhibit sympotomatic conditions like chest pain without known medical explanation.

17 June 2010

Movement to Art

(With the permission of my participant, here is a showcase of his transformation of his process from movement to art. This piece was created after his last session in an individual session after a series of workshops he has attended. Below is his reflection on the masterpiece.)

The Dancing Bodhisattva ~ 飛天観自在

A Drawing, done in colours pencils, that resulted from one of my Dance Movement Therapy sessions with my god-sis, Elizabeth.

For this, I must give credit to the magnificent masterpieces produced from Master Zeng Hao's Dun Huang Art Studio, and also to the moving sensational musical experience of the genius Japanese New Age instrumental group, S.E.N.S. Without them, I can neither have the Inspiration nor the Aspiration to conceptualise, produce and complete this Drawing!

This truly reflects my personal spiritual heritage, influences, and aspirations. I feel so deeply connected and moved in the Flow of the Spirit, and in turn, feel very much liberated and enlightened during the process of producing this reflective piece. And this is especially so since the Drawing is done and completed over the Vesak Day holiday! {chuckles!}

Notice the number of inter-cultural and inter-religious influences and inspirations this picture contains.

The most obvious ones would be the heavy Hindu-Buddhist influences reflected here - like the seemingly Shiva Nataraja pose, the White Complexion, the Blue Neck and Highlights of the Nīlakaṇṭha Lokeśvara (paying homage to the Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion, Avalokiteśvara, 觀世音菩薩 ~ hence, the Title of the Drawing!)

Others include the genderless aspect of the Bodhisattva, true to the Nature of an Enlightened Being, who can be 'All Things to All People' (in reference to St Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians, 9:19-23), the Insignia of the Cross in the form of a Star on the forehead, the Sacred and Enlightening Fire of the Holy Spirit (in a rather Siamese style!) for the nimbus; even the curls of the hair is inspired by St Andrey Rublev's Icon of the Holy Trinity!

See if you can identify them all, and other subtle ones too!"

8 June 2010

To my Dreams I fly, To my Passion I Embrace!

Since I returned from Singapore, it has been more than a month. During the month, I took time off to recuperate, spending couple time with Jeroen (not seeing one another for 2 months is a torture), a short trip to Germany and commenced my gardening project. I adjusted back to the weather, temperature, environment, language, culture, people and food.

The transition between Netherlands to Singapore, Singapore to Netherlands, is not just a flight of long hours and jetlag, but also the physical, emotion, mental as well as spiritual aspect of me. Often than not, there exists a mixed feelings of joy of meeting my family and friends and nervousness of the crowd, noise and pace in my homeland. This return was my longest stay of 3 months. On the whole, it was a fruitful trip, filled with challenges and healing. A precious time reconnecting with my family especially the Chinese New Year reunion dinner, and catching up with a lot of good old friends whom I've not met for many years (thanks to FB), my godmother and godchildren, and I've also made new friends too.

Upon reflection, I'm glad that I've taken the steps to promote dance/movement therapy in Singapore. It gave me a better footing and the flow by running it in my homeland. The experiences I have gained have helped me to grow in my professional field and calling. Each learning experience is valuable. I would like to thank the participants for giving me this opportunity to journey and walk with them in their personal process and growth. I'm touched by them and the greatest joy is to know that I have made a difference in their lives. Needless to say, I have my ups and downs. What I have gained is more than what I can asked for. They give me more than what I've given them. The richness to see their transformation in little ways just made my heart glow with delight. I would relate to how I nurture and observe my baby plant, with the tender loving care, right amount of water, sunlight, fertilizer, touch, sometimes near to check on it, sometime at a distance when it's raining, and watch it blossom on its own to a beautiful vegetable, flower or fruit. Each is special and unique in its own way. It's a blessings and a gift to be able to be involved and to be a part in it.

It was a great start and gave me the confidence to move on. However, nearing the days to return to Netherlands has in fact created some anxiety in me. I recognised it and there's this resistance of not wanting to return even though I miss Jeroen. I reflected and discovered that I've to face another challenge of having to set up my private practice in Netherlands. Though I've been staying there for coming to 5 years, I'm still very unfamiliar with the system and also the feeling that I'm at a losing end. The language is still a great barrier and an obstacles that I am still struggling with. I had a good talk with Jeroen over the phone and sort out my feelings before I headed back, my second home. I listen to myself by taking time off, doing some reflection, enjoying the things I love to do before I continue my plans for the future. The process of embody my feelings and giving myself time and space led me to answers on what to do next.

I'm once again energised, inspired, excited about my passion and dreams not only as a therapist but as a writer. The positive energy is a stepping stone to continue and fulfil my desired dreams. I have a good talk and discussion with Jeroen about my dream, his dream, our dreams and plans. We just take one step at a time and work towards our goals and when we need to adjust when something crops up, we move accordingly. I thank Jeroen for his support and encouragement and for always believing in me.

To be on the practical side, I'm going to list down the things to do, what I want to do, and set priority to achieve it. Not forgetting, to allow time, space, to grow, to breathe, to enjoy, and a balance in every aspects of life, taking into account by listening to my body, emotion, mind and spirit.

I'm ready to fight the good fight, be refined in the fire, with faith and trust in God, He will bring me to a greater height with His wisdom, guidance and love, where ever He wants, I will follow Him. ; )

7 June 2010

Article on Dance/Movement Therapy in the Asian Journal of Naturopathic Phytomedicine

I was honoured to be featured in the first issue of Asian Journal of Naturopathic Phytomedicine, founded by Sebastian Liew, a doctor of naturopath, medical herbalist. An article on the introduction of dance/movement therapy is being written in the journal.

Second issue of Asian Journal of Naturopathic Phytomedicine is out. An article on 'Is Fear a blessing or a curse?' is in this issue.

To view the sample of the journal, you can click on the link here. 

To subscribe to the journal, you can visit the website, Leaf2Life.

Interview by Parenthots

I was approached and being interviewed by Brigitte Rozario from Parenthots on "Leadership Courses: Necessary or Waste of Money?" The interviewed can be read at their website. Thank you Brigitte for the interview and sharing my views with the parents.

21 May 2010

Embodied Self-Awareness

"Many thanks for guiding such a wonderful session. It was truly a wonderful experience and something more to add to my quest for alternate healing." ~ V.

"Thanks for everything Liz... the Embodied Movement Therapy was great and led to the opening of the doors for spiritual confidence and healing." ~ Michelle K.

5 April 2010

Individual Parent & Baby Session

Enjoyed movement therapy with Jem. A time of self awareness,discovery and positive conscious parenting. Thanks Liz for your support! Thank you God for Your will. ~ Diana Chen-Robinson

23 March 2010

Connected As One Workshop Feedback

"The workshop was fun and bonding for us. It allowed me and my partner to be more aware of ourselves and to discover more of the other in a non-threatening approach. I would recommend it to any couple who wants to enhance their relationship and understanding of each other." ~ M & J

21 March 2010

Talk & Performance

Feedback on Talk & Performance 20 February 2010
Performance is entitled, "I, Me & Myself: A Personal Journey & Process As A Person, As A Therapist"
~ As a child
~ As a youth/adult
~ 2005
~ As a student in dance therapy training
~ As a dance therapist


"Before the Talk & Performance, I had little idea of what Dance & Movement is all about. I came more to see you (after you've been away for so long) and to find out what you have been up to doing this Embodied Movement stuff... You gave a pretty concise introduction of what Dance & Movement is about and your personal experience of doing that to help people. I found it a rather interesting sharing even though I am not really drawn to doing it myself yet. At least now I know what it is and how it can help people in all walks of life to be more aware, more relax, more in-tune, etc.

The performance segment was an eye-opener as it was the first time I saw you in action on your own (I've seen you dance in a group before) and especially it was telling the story of your own life and growth, giving me new insights to understand you better, even after knowing you all these years. The selection of music and the impromptu & powerful movements that flowed so well made an impact to me as a member of the audience. It was indeed a new and refreshing experience to me.
--- John :) 

"I find it very refreshing and your talk gives me a new perspective of looking into oneself without feeling awkward. Often times we are so self conscious that we hold back. Watching you free yourself is so liberating. That gave me a good feeling of a bodily experience. Thank you for raising that awareness in me. " 
~A Poh

16 March 2010

Showcase of Art Work In Embodied Self-Awareness

The participants in the workshop shared their life stories based on their feet in verbal,  followed by expressing it in art and then explored it movement. The art is part of the process of their life journey. It's a pity that I did not have a video and camera with me at that time. It would so great to capture the essence of their journey. Each has shared a  deep and beautiful insight of their journey in art and movement. I feel honoured and privileged to be let into their personal life stories and to be their facilitator. I thank the participants for allowing me to share their art pieces in my website/blog.

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