For the past several years, I have been fascinated by the role that imagery plays for me as dance/ movement therapy group leader. As leader, my image has transformed from captain of the ship in my first years in short-term acute psychiatric settings, to being the guide, the glue that holds a group together, and subsequently a wheel when working with people living with dementia.
"The image we hold of ourselves as therapists and of our work with clients is, I believe, the most cohesive element. These images continually change, sometimes within a session, and over time as a result of integrating experience. The clarity of these images profoundly affects the outcome of our work. The image becomes not only the bridge, but also the mode of transportation for new responses." Newman-Bluestein, The Gift of Self presented at the 2007 ADTA conference.
Working as a dance/movement therapist on the geropsych unit at Quincy Hospital, I remember noticing that, as I'd been taught, there were some groups where the therapist needed to be more active. It was as though the leader were the hub of a wheel, and the interactions between her and participants were the spokes. Without the therapist providing those interactions or spokes, there was no cohesion. It was this image that ultimately provided the inspiration to create the Octaband. That and my motivation to connect a collection of individuals with dementia whom I was unsuccessfully trying to transform into a group. The Octaband proved successful in getting the individuals to connect as a group.
Recently, in networking with others around the globe in the fields of dance, dance/movement and expressive therapies, and dementia care, an image of myself as a gear in a fantastical mechanical clock has emerged. I'm calling this image The Wheels of Change.
There are many who feel, as I do, that the care we provide our older adults and people with dementia is not good enough. It does not come close to honoring our mothers and fathers. These older adults have paved the way for us, and our treatment of them is less than honoring. How can we honor them?
We know, based on the evidence that we dance/movement, expressive, music, arts, drama therapists and storytellers see and hear that the arts improve the quality of life for the people with dementia with whom we work. This is unquestionable to us and to all who see us in action. My question is why are we not providing such care. Why do we spend millions on prevention and almost nothing on non-pharmacological interventions that truly honor the dignity of these individuals?
In October, I will be presenting at the 48th Annual American Dance Therapy Association Conference in Brooklyn, NY on the importance of connection for people with dementia: connection for person with dementia to self, between them and therapist, and between therapist and immediate community so the community can provide the cohesive containment the person can no longer provide for him/herself. Beyond the immediate community, 21st century technology and social media provide the means to create national, global and cross-cultural communities where we can access and contribute to the latest conversations, nonpharmacalogical interventions, thinking, research, advocacy and legislation to truly affect the lives of PWD.
Chris Voelz's, director of women’s athletics at U. Minn/ Twin Cities, words have been in front of me at my computer for the past several years:
"Vision - effort = fantasy;
Effort - vision = drudgery;
Vision & effort = the hope of the world."
On September 18, today, I will be attending a Public Hearing in Boston regarding care standards and training for caregivers working with people with dementia in nursing homes and Alzheimer's facilities. I will be advocating not only for the arts therapies but also for the importance of an embodied approach; speaking the language that people with dementia speak. Dance/movement therapist Bethany Kranz will also be advocating.
I hope that others will join me in this endeavor, to bring honor and dignity to our older adults and people with dementia. You can subscribe to my newsletter, join the many conversations on LinkedIn Including the American Dance Therapy Association's LinkedIn discussions, attend my presentation at the ADTA conference or the Expressive Therapies Summit in NY in November.
If the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line, the shortest distance between intention and fruition is the image. Let's see ourselves as gears in The Wheels of Change.