As a psychotherapist, supervisor, dancer, Buddhist, movement therapist and academic and researcher, Sandra brought an exquisitely rich tool box to the day training. The whole day, Sandra physically modelled what she was teaching. Informed by Rudolf Laban’s (1879-1958) analysis of movement and his linguistic framework for describing, visualizing, interpreting and documenting human movement, Sandra offered a day of explorations. The significance is the verbalization of the non-verbal realm in the behaviour and movement of humans ie., retrieving the decoding of non-verbal and non-material reality of human existence and therefore shifting the reality of it into the sphere in which these aspects of life can be identified, named and worked with i.e., robust language and physical literacy. It is Sandra’s development of the method into psychotherapy that we were learning about.
The starting point has to be the practitioner’s own somatic literacy. Sandra’s work as researcher as well as practitioner lies in the objective to facilitate the refinement of the somatic relationship with the world of clients and professionals. In psychotherapy/counselling self-reflective practice is crucial on the levels of movement, cognition and affect. Whether we work with the concept of transference and counter-transference of the psychodynamic approach or with the Rogerian embodied concept of empathy, the ability to distinguish between subject and object (self and other) on the various levels mentioned above is a key skill for any psychotherapist/counsellor. If we cannot identify those aspects in ourselves, it is impossible to do so in client work.
One working assumption is that humans are movement purely by being matter in space and time. As humans we are part of a whole and the interest lies in understanding what propels us or the client to move in a particular way, to change the dynamics. What impels a person to change from one move to another? How do they transition? In Laban’s language, the practitioner identifies whether a person is in the mood of Flow or Space or Weight or Time. What is well developed, under-developed or over-developed in a person?
A further assumption is that Procedural Knowledge (a term from Gestalt therapy), i.e., the somatic knowledge built up in childhood stages is insufficient to carry a person meaningfully through life. Compulsions, the unconscious patterns of habitual repetitions of psycho-physical thinking and behaviour, settle in our somatic organism and behaviour, sooner or later with often detrimental results and often physical symptoms. Before any change towards health can happen, the unconscious and often dysfunctional activity requires a process of becoming conscious before the pattern becomes obsolete.
The specific terminology and concepts of Sandra’s approach turned out to be the major challenge of the day. Laban’s concept of compulsion stimulated plenty of discussion since the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines that term in a different way from Laban.
The aspects outlined above were experientially explored, modelled by Sandra. With a sociometric activity, Sandra measured the connections and moods in the group. Throughout the day, we explored our movements and cognitive processes individually, in pairs, and in classical counselling/psychotherapeutic exercises: A = client, B = listener, C = observer. However, instead of speaking about A’s “issues”, we focussed on identifying which movements, thoughts, sensations, etc, were evoked in ourselves, as A, as B and C. The verbalisation of those were practised and seemed to be a challenge. My hypothesis is that amongst all the participants, the importance of the somatic realm was uncontested, however, the categorization and verbalization of the non-verbal proved to be challenging.
As usual on such days, there was exactly one male colleague and he was great to have there. Also, the sociometry showed that we had more lesser -abled people than was visible. I wonder how these two aspects deserve to be more included into an approach that is clearly based on fully able-bodied people and not important for the majority of male practitioners. I wonder what aspects male colleagues use to be good enough practitioners if they can omit the somatic perspective? How can that approach be made physically more available to people with less physical abilities? These aspects require some research. In my opinion, the difficulties in understanding the approach is a sign that counselling/psychotherapy is still heavily relying on its Procedural Knowledge, based purely on semantics and phenomenology (talking therapies), and is in urgent need of integrating the somatic field in theory and practice. in research and on training courses.
Overall, Sandra weaved the elaborate theory beautifully into the experiential tasks, modelled skilled and beautiful movements, and presented an approach that is refined and sophisticated.
For more information about Sandra Reeve’s work, her website is: https://www.moveintolife.com