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.
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