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.

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