One of the people I met at the PSI conference this summer was Gabrielle Kaufman, one of the PSI coordinators for Southern California. One of the thingswe discussed was dance therapy. I had never heard of dance therapy, and was intrigued to find out more about what it is and how it might be used to help women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Gabrielle was kind enough to write the following article to enlighten us:

"When Rachel was deeply depressed after the birth of her baby girl, she didn't know what to do. In desperation and with her husband's encouragement, she reached out for help. Her OB/GYN referred her to a specialist in postpartum depression. When this specialist spoke to Rachel, she gave monosyllabic answers. Her baby sat alone in the baby carrier and Rachel stated, 'I don't want to be her mother.' When traditional talk therapy didn't seem enough to penetrate her sadness, her doctor thought to refer her to a dance/movement therapist.

Based on the understanding that the body and mind are interrelated, dance/movement therapy is defined as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of an individual. The dance/movement therapist's goal was to help Rachel "move" toward health and connect with her baby girl Sophie.

So what did they do? A dance/movement therapist has training much like a traditional verbal therapist, but has additional tools in her belt. With an understanding of movement assessment, the dance/movement therapist can begin to help the client interpret her behaviors and initiate a shift. The process of bonding with a newborn is a very physical one. By simply encouraging the mother to hold her baby androck with her, movement can begin a journey toward connection. The rocking rhythm is soothing to both the mother and the baby, and the closeness of touch can be healing for both as well.

The therapist may mirror the client in an effort to meet the mother in her depression, or she may be a model mother by encouraging her client to 'move' her depression. Sometimes the therapist might bring out scarves for her client to use. She might invite the client to 'hide' from her baby and return, 'peek-a-boo'. This process is one in which the mother can regain control and initiate her relationship with her baby. We know that the bond a mother forms with her baby early on makes a profound impact on the lifetime development of her child. As much of this attunement is non-verbal, dance/movement therapy can be an ideal intervention.

These days, Rachel finds herself putting on music and dancing with Sophie. It was through the formation of an intimate bond with her baby that Rachel was able to connect to parenting. At times she still struggles and has moments of sadness, but by continuing to see her dance/movement therapist and her doctor, Rachel feels more prepared to engage in the dance of motherhood. To find out more about dance/movement therapy, visit the American Dance Therapy Association"

For more stories on the use of various forms therapy to treat postpartum depression, click the link.