Enjoying working in Edinburgh at Queen Margaret University

Sadly, 2014 will be the final year for the Dance Movement Psychotherapy MSc course at Queen Margaret University. My involvement is only for this academic year. We are half way through the year and the students are preparing for the conclusion of their time at QMU. For me, the experience has been both inspiring and interesting and Edinburgh is a great place to visit.

Testimonial for Can’t Dance? You Can!

Testimonial for Can’t Dance? You Can!
It is an honour to work with someone to overcome or find ways of dealing with fear around the social act of dancing. Tom is one of those who showed courage by tackling the issue and turning up to sessions even when the previous one had been really difficult. He was also open enough to try the various suggestions and to think about the problem. He emailed me the comments below as way of inspiration to other non-dancers:
“I’ve always had a fear of dancing so have always avoided the dance floor.

I’m a 29-year-old male and this year I was asked by my brother to be best man at his wedding. It may sound strange, but I wasn’t concerned that I would have to make a speech in front of 200 people, I was concerned about being able to join the bride and groom half-way through their first dance.

I had seven one-to-one sessions with Jackie (each an hour-long) over a six month period and found them a great help. At the start of the first session (and sometimes in later sessions) we talked through what it felt like for me on the dance floor. The main part of the sessions were focused on movement to various music (mostly typical dance music) where Jackie looked at different techniques for me to become less self conscious. It helped that Jackie had quite a non-judgemental approach.

Closer to the wedding, I found out what the first dance song would be and so we went through it for almost the entire last session.

And actually, on the day, it was fine. I fitted in. It wasn’t about being amazing and throwing moves, it was just about being able to get up there with my brother and sister in law, with my sisters, parents, aunts, cousins and friends and just be comfortable enough in my own skin. I’ll never be particularly good at it, but I found that I do actually have some rhythm and so for me it is almost totally about confidence.”

Dance into Health workshop – Big Dance Event

I am running a workshop as part of Brent Dance Month on Saturday 13th July 2013
The details are below:

Dance Into Health

Dance Therapy helps to improve well being and fitness levels in a fun and safe environment.

• Are you 18 years or over?
• Would you like to move and dance to music?
• Would you like to express yourself in your own way?

Dance therapy is a great way:
• To listen to your body and allow it to move how it wants.
• To move with others and connect with people.
• To relax and forget about everyday stresses.
• To improve well being and FEEL LIVELY!!!

Who: All abilities (including people with mobility issues)
Where: Brent Mencap (379-381 High Road, Willesden, NW10 2JR)
When: Saturday 13th July 2013
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Price: £4
Contact: Jackie by phone: 0208 731 6901 / 07960793670
or email: bodyofchange@live.co.uk

Arts Therapies and Learning Disabilities Conference

I attended the Arts Therapies and Learning Disabilities Conference on Saturday 16th March 2013 which was organised by the Merton Arts Therapies Team. It was both inspiring and interesting. Two things particularly struck me: Firstly, the pace which I know from my own practice is really important if there is to be genuine input from those with learning disabilities. Secondly, I was wondering how I could develop a more collaborative approach with my clients, who are mostly non-verbal. I had the opportunity to understand this in practice in the following week after the conference when the Dance Therapy group at the John Billams Centre were to be videod for marketing the service. Video and external viewing of Therapy sessions are not the norm but we had decided to offer a ‘mock group’. My instruction to both participants and staff was that all we needed to do and be was exactly how we usually are. The groups are very vibrant, expressive and honest. On the day, the mock session went to plan, in fact, all of us were natural and were able to show ourselves. It was after the session that I realised how unusual this is. I have been at many centres and residential homes at times of inspections and even those with the most profound learning disabilities perform for the witness with a smile or a movement at the right time. What is usually lacking for all of us, is allowing ourselves to be seen playing and engaging together. Usually we all keep to our roles, the service users perform what is expected and the staff withold and keep distance. Following the videoing session, one of the reflections was that in the dance therapy groups here, there is a feeling of equality. I then realised that this is perhaps one way i which we can work in a collaborative way with those who are non-verbal, we walk beside them, affirming that they are ok both for themselves to realise and to those who are looking in from the outside.


I received a response from the Department of Health to my letter of concern about the abuse at Winterbourne View, as seen on Panorama. As well as expressing the horror which I felt at witnessing such awful behaviour, I wanted to point out how I feel that this was able to happen because the staff dehumanised those in their care. My view is that practice at Winterbourne is not the norm, it is an extreme case of general practice where care staff are not trained, encouraged or suitably re-imbursed to use empathy skills in their interactions with residents. The result can be that we forget that we are working with our fellow human beings. The response outlined the reviews and investigations now being carried out as a result of the Panorama programme and how there is £32 million provided by the government for Skills for Care. I am interested to find out how this money is spent.