Engaging the SELF: Dance/Movement Therapy with Individuals with Eating Disorders

maskHuman beings attempt to mask problems with behaviors that are essentially the tape and glue of our external Self, forgetting that the core of any problem is rooted much deeper than one may be consciously aware. Moreover, the root of the problem that people try so hard to mask sits within the body, patiently waiting to be pulled up and taken away in the wind–releasing any form of attachment to the Self. It is challenging to dig into these root causes, cultivating a new awareness of one’s body.  It is particularly difficult for individuals who are already in a harmful relationship with their bodies, specifically individuals identified with eating disorders.

In a recent article entitled “Engaging the Embodied Self in Dance/Movement Therapy,”  board certified dance/movement therapist Stacey McGinn Hurst discusses the essential ideal that an individual must identify the root cause of their problem in order to mend the disconnect between the mind, body and spirit. Hurst describes theses disconnects as “blockades and barriers,” enabling an individual with an eating disorder to compartmentalize their emotions and implement negative behavior(s) including food restriction. Hurst states that by inviting dance/movement therapy – “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual” – into the client’s therapeutic space, “the client begins to recover long forgotten and disowned aspects of the Self, leading to less animosity between the Self and the eating disorder, and to a greater sense of integration.”

outreachWithin this therapeutic space, Hurst describes five fundamental steps in the dance/movement therapy process in which the client may begin to regain a positive relationship with his or her body. She describes these fundamentals as basic movement tasks, body orientation or awareness in space, breath work, grounding techniques and full body expression through dance. In dance/movement therapy, the client has the potential to become more available to listen to his or her body’s expression with compassion and begin to understand how to hold the space without cycling back to eating disordered behaviors. harmonyAs the client’s therapeutic process progresses, they may begin to develop inner harmony within the mind-body-spirit relationship.

You can read Stacey Hurst’s article in its entirety on the Eating Disorders Resource Catalogue website as well as Susan Kleinman’s article, “The Body Speaks: Dance/Movement Therapy Creates Movement Toward Eating Disorder Recovery.”

Additional resources about eating disorders and dance/movement therapy:

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