Valleyhead’s Movement Program with Beth Rigbybeth | May 1, 2000
by Dr. Steve Hoff, Clinical Director of Valleyhead School, Lenox, MA, May 2000
Valleyhead’s multi-dimensional treatment program consists of individual therapy, group therapy, family work, milieu work, adventure based counseling and various experiential groups. The Movement Program is an innovative and important component of our treatment of adolescent girls.
Beth Rigby’s Movement Program is a form of movement which incorporates aspects of dance, aerobics, meditation and other relaxation techniques. The group (of approximately 10 – 12 students) is facilitated by Beth Rigby who alternates between leading structured stretches and dance movements and encouraging the girls to move freely and creatively to music. Groups are co-facilitated by two Valleyhead clinical staff members. Each session begins with a warm-up and is followed by a variety of energizing dance/aerobic activities. Subsequently, the girls are asked to engage in an activity focused on a particular theme. For example, the girls may be asked to write down something they want to “let go”, or may write a letter to someone from their past expressing what they want to let go. After writing, the girls would dance freely as the entire group would rip up their papers and stomp them into the ground. Addressing the theme of “letting go” of painful memories or thoughts can take on powerful dimensions when addressed in the experiential arena.
The sessions are characterized by a great deal of spontaneity, passion, intensity, and emotion. While a great deal of laughter and joy permeate sessions, tears are not uncommon. The process of movement in conjunction with music fosters emotional expression and the experience of feelings; critical aspects of treatment.
In order to achieve maximum therapeutic value a brief, interpersonal processing piece, facilitated by a Valleyhead clinical staff member, ends each session. During this time the girls share their feelings and experiences. The content of the discussion is guided by the theme introduced earlier in the session. Thus, the activity of “letting go” described above might be followed by an interpersonal group discussion with the focus question of “what was it like for you to let go?” This discussion serves as a forum for group sharing, allows therapeutic working through of issues and acts as a necessary “debriefing” period.
In addition to the obvious benefits of this program (group – connectedness; physical exercise; fun, verbal processing of feelings) are those more subtle but no less important – specifically, issues of body awareness and integration and individual integrity as experienced by adolescent females. T’he importance of these issues is magnified for sexual trauma survivors. Participating in dancing and stretching helps our girls feel more comfortable with their bodies. Moving through this experiential group can, in fact, help them become reacquainted with their bodies, thereby undoing negative self/body-perceptions that formed due to their experiences of abuse. International trauma researcher and authority Bessel van der Kolk’s notion that “the body keeps the score” is relevant here. He suggests that the experience of trauma has psychophysiological ramifications, and that physical types of interventions may be beneficial. The physical release and expression inherent in the Movement Program, combined with verbal processing of experiences, provides a holistic way in which to address the complex and deep reaching effects of sexual trauma.
The format of this Movement Progam is designed to provide full immersion in a time limited treatment modality. Each student is part of a group (approximately 10 – 12 girls per group) which meets 1 time per week for 6 weeks. Each session is approximately 1 3/4 hours, with the time broken down as follows:
|Warmup and Stretching||15 minutes|
|Semi-Structured Activities||20 minutes|
|Free Group Dance||25 minutes|
|Cool Down/Relaxation||20 minutes|
|Interpersonal Processing||25 minutes|
Each session seeks to address a particular theme. All themes are related to overall emotional health. The themes have been developed to be most suitable to the needs of our group of students:
Sense of Self – “Who Am I?”
Strengths – “What do I like about myself,” “What are my strengths?”
Anger/Pain – “What are the reasons for my anger and pain?”
Letting Go – “What do I want to let go?”
Hope – “What will my future be? “What are my dreams?”