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Dance and movement therapy to help war and torture victims



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A description of the experience

Torture. 2007;17(2):134-55.

Dance/movement therapy approaches to fostering resilience and recovery among African adolescent torture survivors.

Harris DA.  DavidAlanHarrisMA@yahoo.com

Dance/movement therapy (DMT) interventions, if designed to promote cultural relevance and community ownership, may enhance healing among African adolescent survivors of war and organised violence.

The author posits a theoretical rationale for body movement-based approaches to psychosocial rehabilitation, and offers DMT's holism as evidence of transcultural applicability. Two distinct DMT iniatives with this population are discussed in terms of theoretical assumptions, implementation, and outcomes. Both efforts afforded creative means for discharging aggression and restoring interpersonal connection.

The first of these programes engaged a community of South Sudanese refugee youths, resettled to the U.S., in a series of gatherings for traditional dancing and drumming that reconstituted a central culture-of-origin ritual. Anectodal evidence supports this psychosocial intervention's emphasis on group cohesion as a vehicle with both preventive and reparative capacities. Also a series of DMT groups with youths in Sierra Leone. All organized several years post-conflict, these interventions involved applying the DMT modality within a framework of Western psychotherapeutic conventions described in a series of groups with youths, all organized several years post-conflict, is presented.

Programe evaluation revealed a drop in average symptom expression among a group comprised of former boy combatants who reported continual reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression, intrusive recollection, elevated arousal, and aggression. The group's teenage males joined actively in improvisatory dancing and in other structured creative exercices.

These former child soldiers later elected to demonstrate their wartime experiences through public presentation of a role-play. A report on this event illustrates the success of the process in overcoming stigma and enabling meaningful community reintegration. Thus, whether introduced in refuge or post-conflict, DMT approaches are shown to embody revitalizing psychosocial support in the aftermath of massive violence.

PMID:  17728491

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Music therapy