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Authentic Movement

Clinical Considerations

Shira Musicant

Clinical considerations of authentic movement and its contribu-
tions to dance/movement therapy are addressed in this paper. Au-
thentic movement is discussed as an intervention or approach in
dance/movement therapy and as a movement practice or discipline
outside the field of dance/movement therapy. Levy’s (1988) formula-
tion of the therapist’s style of intervention, the degree of therapist
control, and the focus of the therapist’s attention are the elements
used to place authentic movement in the spectrum of dance/move-
ment therapy practice. Conditions of safety in the use of authentic
movement are considered, and clinical examples with therapeutic ra-
tionales for the use of authentic movement are presented. The ongo-
ing practice of authentic movement is discussed in terms of its contri-
butions to training for dance/movement therapists.

KEY WORDS: authentic movement; clinical contributions.

A uthentic movement and dance/movement therapy have intertwining
roots, histories, philosophies, and elements of practice. In discussing
clinical considerations related to authentic movement, two views of the
relationship between authentic movement and dance/movement therapy
are held. First, authentic movement is seen as an approach within the
practice of dance/movement therapy, involving inner-directed movement
with the therapist as witness. In addition, authentic movement is viewed
as a movement practice, outside the therapeutic context, which is devel-
oping a unique theoretical and methodological body of knowledge involv-
American Journal of Dance Therapy  2001 American Dance
Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2001 17 Therapy Association

may offer clinical training opportunities for skill development and in- creased awareness of therapeutic issues. the witness pays attention to and quietly contains his or her own judgments. The mover focuses on internal experience and re- sponding to that experience. there may be several movers. 142). “The outer form of this work is simple” writes Adler. allowing oneself to be moved by the inner world of sensation. Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow (Pallaro. One begins with eyes closed. Both uses are amplified in the body of the paper. 1999). “one person moves in the presence of another” (1999. participating but not directing. In “Contributions of Authentic Movement. as Adler came to call the observer. . sensation. in which the therapist participates as both mover and witness. 1999). image. the mover does not relinquish conscious attention.18 Shira Musicant ing the relationship between observation and action. Different aspects of the form and process are de- scribed throughout Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks White- house. Whitehouse writes that the unconscious is allowed to speak whatever and however it likes while “consciousness looks on. The witness. 142). While the mover invites the unconscious into the movement process. This paper is divided into two sections. feelings. 82). and im- pulses to move. p. In a group con- text. keeping eyes open and atten- tion on the mover. Authentic Movement in Dance/Movement Therapy The Form and Process of Authentic Movement Much of the dance/movement therapy literature contains descriptions of authentic movement. p. Group participants may have their own individual witnesses or they may be witnessed by one or more peo- ple witnessing the group as a whole. In “Authentic Movement in Dance/Movement Therapy. and feeling. Whitehouse describes the experience of the mover as that of “being moved” (1999.” the author suggests that the practice of authentic move- ment. p. co- operating but not choosing” (p. rather than on the shape or direction of the movement. witness and mover (Adler. At the same time. sits at the side of the move- ment space and brings conscious attention to the mover. Adler describes how the witness brings a “specific quality of attention or presence to the experience of the mover” (1999. 83). The witness attends to temporal and spatial logistics.” the author discusses authentic movement as an intervention and considers the methodological integration of authen- tic movement in the therapy session.

although they may also use writing or art to bring form and meaning to the movement experience. One exam- ple of an outer-directed movement process. and the focus of therapist attention. At the other end of the continuum is the inner-directed move- . Authentic Movement in the Dance/Movement Therapy Context The process of authentic movement reflects theoretical and methodologi- cal concepts which are core to the field of dance/movement therapy. the validity of an organically unfolding process. Throughout this spectrum of intervention styles. rhythms of other group members. the therapeutic relationship is of major importance (Levy. A second dimension Levy (1988) discusses. She focuses on three di- mensions of practice in her discussion of the early pioneers: the style of intervention. and focus of the session. These dimensions are useful in describing the relationship of authentic movement to the spectrum of dance/movement therapy prac- tice. body awareness. the necessity for safety in order to take risks. as she compares ap- proaches. and mindful attention to that experience. is one of the approaches that contributes to the diversity within dance/move- ment therapy practice. the pri- macy of the experiencer’s knowing. the degree of therapist control. Outer-direction might include the therapist’s verbal or movement suggestions. such as three-dimensional breathing. reflecting a high degree of therapist control. the mover and witness usually talk together. At the other end of the spectrum is the empathic observer role. The style of intervention has at one end of its spectrum the therapist’s combined verbal and nonverbal participation in the movement process. is the teaching of a skill. 1988). Among these concepts are the importance of the body and of accessing the unconscious. as a process in dance/movement therapy. direction. Authentic Movement 19 Following the movement. is that of the degree of therapist control. in that the therapist as witness sits and observes the mover/client. Authentic movement. or visual cues from group members. A Chacian group would be an example of the former. music. and the need for the container of the therapeutic relationship. Whether using authentic movement. this knowledge shapes the intention. Levy (1988) discusses this rich diversity through- out Dance Movement Therapy: A Healing Art. Authentic movement falls in the latter range of the spectrum. outer-directed movement. This knowledge emerges out of a focus on direct. and facili- tates through verbal communication and presence. in-the-moment experi- ence. in which the therapist watches without overt movement participation. or talking. At one end of the spectrum is the outer-directed movement process.

Authentic movement. so that it can belong to the group as a whole. or feel- ing. For those whose relationship to their own knowing has become distorted. As an intervention in a clinical setting. this pro- cess can be both challenging and healing. reflecting a low de- gree of control. need. reflecting a low degree of therapist control. or may guide the client into the process with either move- ment or verbal suggestions. once the client enters authentic movement.20 Shira Musicant ment process. or only a few minutes. A horizontal orientation might be exemplified by a group theme or a generalization of an individual’s theme. It may last most of the session. direct. in both group and individ- ual therapeutic contexts. . While there may be variations of intervention style in how the therapist guides the client into the authen- tic movement process. based on the client’s internal world of information. the vertical dimensions might be verbally shared. A vertical focus is the exploration and deepening of the individual’s experience. In looking at the broad picture of dance/movement therapy practice. memories. This process can be profound as clients are seen and accepted as they enter the unknown in themselves and listen deeply to themselves. when authentic movement is part of a group context. primarily falls in this latter range. it may also vary in the style of therapist intervention. Verbal suggestions may range from those 1 Portions of “Authentic Movement in Clinical Practice” were presented at the 35th An- nual ADTA Conference in Seattle. The therapist may be the witness and time- keeper only. and intimate relationship with the self in the presence of another. feelings. However. and affective material. A third dimension of dance/movement therapy practice is that of the focus of the therapist’s attention. Levy (1988) uses the concepts of hori- zontal and vertical foci. Authentic movement. authentic movement falls into the range of client inner-directed move- ment with a vertical focus of attention. providing an opportunity for the mover to focus inwardly on kinesthetic. so that greater play between the vertical and horizontal dimensions occurs. authentic movement may have many variations. or shared through the processes of moving or witnessing. the therapist as witness becomes an empathic observer. it may be offered in the context of a movement process or may be sug- gested during verbal work. October 2000. Washington. is an ex- ample of an intervention at this inner-directed end of the spectrum. imagistic. the mover is involved in an immediate. As noted above. Clinical Use of Authentic Movement1 In authentic movement. and themes.

I asked her to stay with that feeling. She stroked her chest and explored the space around her chest with her hands and fingers. 1994). I witnessed quietly. The examples described below illustrate several rationales for the in- troduction of authentic movement in therapy. safety also includes interpersonal trust and some familiarity with inner-directed moving. Her shoulders opened and her chest expanded. An introduction to the process of inner-directed movement may facili- tate safety. I asked her to allow that feeling to move her any way it wanted and to allow the rest of her body and attention to participate any way it wanted. as she brought her hand up to her chest. Susan brought both hands up and rubbed along her sternum. This lasted about two or three min- . as she spoke about wanting external justification and validation for having been “wronged” by a friend. as her crying diminished. focusing in- wardly. We were sitting across from each other in chairs. while moving her hands gently on and around her chest and heart. saying she could take as much time as needed. she still wanted others to say she was right. In the context of a clinical setting. as with any intervention. therapeutic conditions of safety and rationales for the use of authentic movement as intervention are important. 1999b).” she reported. Beyond this dimension. Authentic Movement 21 that encourage or support the process to those that suggest a particular theme to explore. Safety has several dimensions. Mindful attention to body experience in either a directed body scan or an outer-directed movement process may provide this intro- duction. The examples reflect a range in the applica- tion of authentic movement in terms of the length of time and the context of the process. to see if it had a home in her body. and to organize. internal information. the appro- priateness of authentic movement must be evaluated. Clinical Examples and Discussion Susan is a 44 year-old woman who has seen me in therapy for two years. and to authentic movement in particular. She struggles with numerous losses in her life and a recurring depres- sion. In this regard. These rationales are dis- cussed after each example. Resistance to moving. including the individual’s capacity to attend to. “It’s here. Although she had worked with the situation and come to an understanding of it. She folded her shoulders in and started to cry softly. Susan closed her eyes and focused on the feeling. is evidence that some aspect of safety may not be in place (Musicant. and having a witness. Clinical examples of a range and variation in the ways therapists use authentic movement can be found throughout Joan Cho- dorow’s descriptions of her work (1999a.

in a relationship with herself. I asked her to continue to let her arms move. as she rotated and moved around her strong vertical axis. I sat down to witness. Susan de- scribed her erectness. stomping. Her eyes were open as we played with tapping. she described memories of feeling left out and unseen by her mother. Susan was able to bring up a painful relationship. and stepping in different ways while allowing the arms and ribs to float and glide. her sense of balance. but she could not make sense of it and wanted to stop it. One intention of the authentic movement intervention was to bring conscious attention to the experience of that feeling and to the information available in that experience. which had softened during the movement. When she spoke. There was laughter and playfulness. she had come to an impasse in what she was able to verbally process and explore. and to begin to focus inward. and. like when I . The context is notewor- thy in this example in that the authentic movement took place in a pri- marily verbal session. she was describing a feeling that she knew was old and familiar. Later in the session. becoming aware of. Her knees were soft and her feet were grounded. feelings and movement impulses to emerge. I asked her to take another minute to finish moving. Susan’s awareness of a feeling “having a home” in her body was the beginning of a movement process. to look at how big that “creating it” part is inside her. to look at her part in creating it. Another intention was for her to be in a relationship with that feeling. Her eyes closed after a minute and her arms began to gently move around her torso. “I can stay balanced. In this example. The focus of attention. There were several rationales for using inner attending and self-di- rected movement with Susan at this time. In this example. I saw that her arms had begun to swing slightly.22 Shira Musicant utes. and her experience of being okay “in there” with herself. “But this isn’t going to bring me to my knees. and ongoing thoughts about how unfair and wrong this was.” she said. When she spoke about her experience. Susan and I were moving with a new lightness she had found in her rib cage and feet. Her movement experience became a reference point for her self-acknowledgment. and ultimately. with a high degree of therapist control present on either side of the authentic movement experience. and allowing any sensations. In addi- tion. After five minutes. My verbal direction facilitated Susan’s ability to enter the inner attending and self-directed authentic movement process. however. This example also illustrates a range in the forms of intervention possible in a session. was vertical throughout this example. First. As we slowed and quieted. and to notice how she felt as she ended. I suggested she take five minutes to stay with herself in this way. Several weeks later. expressing what- ever they wanted. became a reference point for her longing for acknowledgment. a high degree of verbal participation bracketed the empathic observer role. The sensation in her chest.

The authentic movement process reflected a low degree of therapist control in that Susan’s movement was inner-directed. Tina and Mitch.” Her experience with herself in movement was again becoming a reference for her knowing about herself. this feeling that he must live up to some expectation to be okay in Tina’s eyes? These were the questions that launched us into including the practice of authentic movement with our clinical work. reflect- ing a high degree of therapist control and a participatory style of thera- pist intervention. to stay present when she and Mitch are together? How would that affect Mitch’s sense of responsibility. Authentic Movement 23 moved. as well as in Tina’s relationship with her father and in Mitch’s relationship with his mother. and the focus of attention was vertical. and still look at this. she began to notice that when Mitch was home. and to follow a movement impulse. For Susan. married two years. in this case knowing about her own resources. They had moved with me before. but in- stead. and mindful attention was integral to their experience in our sessions. the primary intention was to bring aware- ness to the body experience and to any information available in that experience. involved in his own experience. one that was of a different order than her mother’s relationship with her. There is a meta-level of teaching which occurs when the therapist asks the client to pay attention to a movement impulse. she ori- ented herself to him. Whereas the previous example illustrated authentic movement in a verbal session. was both directed and interactive. A secondary intention was to honor.” My goal for Susan was an expanded relationship with herself. while Tina literally followed him about and oriented herself to him. We explored this in a directed movement structure. be- fore the authentic movement. Tina and Mitch realized how familiar it was in their relationship. I was in the empathic ob- server role.” In another example. During the previous six months. this example with Susan shows authentic movement evolving out of another movement process. Through out the authentic movement process. thereby acknowledging Susan’s internal experi- ence. We began with each of . As in the earlier example. the message was: “Your experience and your inner life are worthy of your attention. one in which she did not “leave herself out. they had learned to identify the issues that they each brought into the marriage and to listen to and to talk to each other without too much defensiveness. What would it be like for Tina to not abandon herself. and might later enter their interaction as resent- ment. While it became humorous and ended in laughter. Mitch moved around the room. She exaggerated that process. had come to therapy to work on communication issues. This movement process. to listen to. scooting alongside him with her face and upper chest reaching up to him. so that her needs were sometimes not available to her as information. As Tina became more aware of her needs in the relationship.

and longer periods of movement. the practice of authentic move- ment was introduced in a therapeutic context. After sev- eral sessions. sensation and feeling. emerged at times. the movement was client-directed. Insights such as these became part of the grist for our work. with myself as witness. Authentic movement with Mitch and Tina looked typical in terms of Levy’s dimensions: I participated as an empathic observer. They came to our two- hour sessions with the expectation of moving and witnessing. The introduction of authentic movement as an ongoing practice allowed us to focus on the development of the internal witness and the capacity to witness each other. For the couple. the interven- tion allowed each to explore and to honor his or her own inner life in each other’s presence. One exception was that some couple themes. In the example with Tina and Mitch. and how he experienced the rest of his body as “dead. a con- tinual assessment of the appropriateness of this practice was required. not listened to by the adults in her life. For both Tina and Mitch. In each case. Mitch. the somatic basis for their respective knowing. The three examples described above illustrate a range of application of authentic movement in a clinical setting. and the focus of attention was vertical. a high degree of therapist control was evident in the teaching aspect of authentic movement. in each case safety was assessed. the intervention of authentic movement was intended to facilitate awareness of impulse.” Tina had a mem- ory of a childhood time she had felt powerless and alone. a more horizontal focus. and I began teaching them how to witness. I gave them the time frame and became the timekeeper and overall witness. This continued to be an essential part of our therapy process for sev- eral months. and generalized this awareness to his work environment and to his relationship with his parents. In addition. Because the larger context of this work was psychotherapeutic. In the first few sessions. She related this to a feeling she gets with Mitch. learned about developing his internal witness. Mitch became aware of the core of aliveness in his body center. . in particular. the appropri- ateness and intent of the intervention was considered. each had personal in- sights.24 Shira Musicant them moving in the space at the same time for about seven minutes. Witnessing gave them each a new tool for being with each other during painful and conflictual times. Whether the authentic movement practice could have held the conflictual material in these sessions is an ongoing area of exploration. as Mitch and Tina witnessed each other. in addition to teaching the form itself. There were several sessions that were scheduled for authentic movement in which we chose to have a more typical psychotherapy session involv- ing verbal and movement processes. they expressed a desire to witness each other.

physical and symbolic. it has potential as a healing. the embodiment of experience. Training in this dimension of authentic movement may also heighten the therapist’s understanding of when to be quietly attentive and when to guide. A discussion of this is beyond the scope of the present paper. the practice of authentic movement. especially in terms of timing and content. Thereby. Thus it can also make meaningful contributions out- side the field of psychotherapy. offers unique training opportunities for dance/ movement therapists and verbal therapists alike. it may increase the therapist’s skill in containing and utilizing transferential material. it has the potential to amplify aspects of the client/therapist relationship and the therapeu- tic process. the mover is internaliz- ing the attitude of openness and non-judgmental acceptance that charac- terizes the external witness. and the relationships between conscious and unconscious. At the same time. a deeply observant witness in the mover brings mindful at- tention to the mover’s imagistic. yet grow- ing outside the therapeutic arena. Authentic Movement 25 Contributions of Authentic Movement Authentic movement has developed both within and outside the field of dance/movement therapy. in which participants both move and witness. Because authentic movement is based on the relationship between the mover and the witness. In addition. In the practice of authentic movement. and of transferential material. kinesthetic and affective material. Some of these contri- butions are discussed below. rooted in dance/movement therapy. Because it is based in the wisdom of the body. offers clinical and theoretical contri- butions to dance/movement therapy and to other forms of psychotherapy. Another contribution of authentic movement is to the therapist’s in- creased understanding of the conditions that allow for the emergence of unconscious and preconscious material. integrative process. over time. This body of knowledge. possibly choos- ing to move with this material. this internal witness . The witness brings mindful attention to the relationship with the mover in both the process of witnessing and the subsequent verbal interaction. This attention to the relationship may heighten awareness of transference and countertransference. Among the contributions of authentic movement is the therapist’s heightened awareness of the timing and the content of interventions. Thus. Peer groups and training groups practicing authentic movement are contributing to a developing body of knowledge regarding authentic movement as a transformative process. except to note that there is a developing theory and methodology of authentic movement that stands independent of the practice of dance/movement therapy. This internal witness learns to notice and to stay compassionate in the face of judgements and uncomfortable psychological material.

This perspective allows the therapist to evaluate the nature of the mover/witness relationship within each client. These qualities include the development of personal boundaries and the ability to con- tain projections (Lucchi. Because mindful attention is brought to these numerous relationships. Move- ment with a spiritual dimension. and other aspects of internal life. and that the mover can exercise volitional move- ment. An additional contribution of training in authentic movement is found in the process of developing a strong internal witness. Guidelines are also evolving in the prac- tice of authentic movement for both the process and content of the wit- ness’ feedback to the mover. Among these are the following: that the witness stay present. and be time keeper. Furthermore. insight as to group member’s roles. be- tween witnesses. or can stop at any time. 1998) that are strengthened through the prac- tice of witnessing. All of these qualities allow for an atmosphere of safety that supports working on issues in-depth. compassionate. authentic movement is based on the relationship between the conscious and unconscious. the known and unknown. In addition to the mover/witness relationship. and tools for utilizing the power of multiple witnesses. exemplifying a particu- lar way of being with regard to the self. for example. authentic movement involves relationships between movers. An additional contribution of authentic movement is to the therapist’s heightened awareness of and openess to clients’ spiritual issues. training in this practice may offer the group dance/movement therapist height- ened awareness regarding collectively held material. observing. Another contribution of authentic movement is to the therapist’s in- creased understanding of group process. that there be no expectations about the movement itself other than physical safety. The therapist can assess the client’s capacity to be aware of needs. and between multiple movers and witnesses. or movement that is experienced as transcendent. Certain guidelines inherent in the practice of au- thentic movement facilitate the emergence of the unconscious. accepting or dismissive. The therapist can also consider the client’s attitude and openness to this information.26 Shira Musicant becomes both stronger and more self-accepting. The rationale for these guiding principles is the creation of conditions that allow the emergence and integration of unconscious material. This internal wit- ness gives the therapist an experiential basis for viewing the relation- ship each person has to the self. may emerge for the mover and the witness in authentic . When practiced in a group for- mat. Training and practice in these guidelines may con- tribute to a therapist’s knowledge of the safety issues involved in any in-depth psychological exploration. long- ings. and curious. whether it is. re- spectful. research indicates that training in authentic movement may enhance qualities in the therapist which facilitate the establishment of conditions of safety.

ongoing training in this practice has the potential to increase the therapist’s knowledge of. and facilitate qualities in the therapist that create safety. and ability to work with the role and importance of spirituality in the process of transforma- tion and in psychotherapy. Who is the witness? In P. Authentic movement: A collection of essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse. It greatly increases aware- ness of both individual and group process issues. In conclusion. Finally. Training in authentic movement may also deepen the therapist’s understanding of safety issues with any psy- chological work. but also transforms the relationship to the self. Thus.). and while they risk ex- periencing unknown feelings. (1999). It is also suggested here that therapist training in authentic move- ment has value beyond the use of authentic movement as an interven- tion in dance/movement therapy. The experience of both mover and witness in a group format may heighten the therapist’s awareness of various aspects of group process. . J. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley. At the same time. and Joan Chodorow (pp. and skills for including the spiritual dimension in dance/ movement therapy. this pro- cess not only provides an opportunity for greater self-understanding. and images. Authentic movement has value for dance/move- ment therapists both as a clinical intervention and as an ongoing prac- tice. sensitivity. gives the therapist an experiential basis for understanding aspects of the therapeutic relation- ship and therapeutic process. Authentic Movement 27 movement. in which the thera- pist participates as both mover and witness. thoughts. Janet Adler. Ongoing training. 141–159). For clients. ongoing training can provide the therapist with awareness of. the development of the internal witness gives the therapist a perspective from which to view and address the client’s relationship to the self. The nature of the prac- tice supports working in-depth with unconscious material and working with spiritual issues. Conclusion The clinical uses of authentic movement allow clients to be seen and accepted while they listen deeply to themselves. The development of the therapist’s wit- nessing skills may enhance the ability to contain and to work with trans- ferential material. authentic movement has the potential to greatly amplify therapists skills. comfort with. because spiritual experiences may emerge in the authentic movement process. and awareness. References Adler. Pallaro (Ed.

Authentic move- ment: A collection of essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse. Pallaro. Lucchi. Philosophy and methods of individual work. Levy. Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow (pp. S. California Graduate Institute. B. VA: American Alliance for Health. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley. C. Dance/movement and body experience in analysis. Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow. Pallaro (Ed. (1999a). Pallaro (Ed.28 Shira Musicant Chodorow. P. Los Angeles. American Journal of Dance Therapy. Chodorow. Jung and dance therapy. Authentic movement as a training modality for private practice clinicians. Physical Education and Dance. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley. (1999). (1999b). Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Musicant. Authentic movement and dance therapy. Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow (pp. . (1998). Authentic movement: A collection of essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse. M.J. (Ed. Whitehouse. (1988). F. Pallaro (Ed. Dance movement therapy: A healing art. 73–101). Reston.). (1994). Authentic movement: A collection of essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse. J. 16.G. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley. 91–106. 229–235).).). Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow (pp. In P. Au- thentic movement: A collection of essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse. In P.S. 253–266).). J. In P.

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