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In the 1950s, Mary Starks Whitehouse developed authentic movement, a type of improvisational movement designed to allow the patient to express emotions and issues that are difficult for them to verbalize. Participants are encouraged to move however they please. A type of free association of the body, there is no right or wrong way to move in authentic movement. Every movement helps you open up to your true emotions and feelings about different events and issues in your life.

Authentic movement is an alternative therapy and can augment your experience in mental health treatment, improving the outcome of your program. Contact us today to learn more.

Does Authentic Movement Work?

Different types of therapy will be more or less effective for different people. Movement therapies are based on the idea that feelings and emotion are held within the body and that movement can release them in an authentic way that cannot be replicated through a cognitive, orderly discussion. Authentic movement, dance therapy, and other improvisational movement can be effective for patients who have a difficult time verbalizing their thoughts or feelings, or for those who cannot identify the cause of different emotional obstacles.

*What Happens at an Authentic Movement Session?

Though every therapist may have a different process, you may experience:

  • A private or group session
  • Closing your eyes
  • Engaging with the mind-body connection
  • Moving, yelling, shouting or gesticulating as you feel compelled
  • An objective witness who “contains” your movements and shares them with you after the movement is complete
  • Sharing and discussion when movement winds down

*Jung and Authentic Movement

Mary Starks Whitehouse was a student of Martha Graham and also a trained psychotherapist. The therapeutic philosophy incorporated into authentic movement is informed by the Jungian theory of “active imagination” that says that the unconscious memory can be explored consciously. Though Jung used meditation and dream interpretation, Whitehouse believed that authentic movement can be used for the purpose of exploring the subconscious.

Questions to Ask Your Therapist

It’s important that you feel comfortable both with the type of therapy you engage in and the therapist who guides you through it. Here are some questions to ask to help you get started:

  • What is your understanding of authentic movement?
  • What is your training in the therapy and in psychology?
  • What is your experience in treating patients?
  • What can I expect in an authentic movement therapy session?
  • How long do sessions last?
  • Who will be the observer? What is their experience?
  • What are the goals of treatment?

Freeing Emotional Memories

If you feel unable to verbalize some of the trauma or conflict you have experienced in your life, it can be cathartic to utilize movement therapies. Free from having to express yourself in words, you can simply move your body in such a way that allows you to release negative effects of the past.

Some people feel extremely emotional after authentic movement and other dance therapies – they may cry or feel angry without knowing why. These responses to the session are absolutely okay. You are in a safe space and a therapist is there to help you process unexpected emotions as they arise.

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