Ruchi Shah is a registered dance movement therapist, licensed by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) and a mental health counselor. Upon completing her education in Chicago, USA, she moved back to India to share her experience and knowledge in the field of mental health and psychotherapy. She believes that her role as a therapist is to guide and empower her clients to uncover that which they already know and to eventually help empower them to embark on their independent healing journey.
Is it necessary to select one school of thought for therapy, if one is looking to practice?
If you are looking to practice, I don’t think it’s important to focus on one school of thought. It is helpful to know of various schools of thought and to be mindful of the particular school of thought that you’re inclined to. As a new therapist, you tend to try out different styles to figure out what works best for you.
Once you begin to form a pattern in your therapy style(be it psychodynamic, existential, positive, etc.), you can always read about it and develop it further. Even while studying, certain theories attract you as you start aligning your values and beliefs to that singular school of thought. But the foundation of psychotherapy lies in meeting your client where they are at, so if you can attune with your client, sometimes you may realize that you have to draw from a different school of thought because that is what works for your client at that moment.
How can one deal with transference in a therapeutic session?
Transference is a phenomenon within psychotherapy in which the feelings a person has are unconsciously redirected or transferred onto the therapist. Psychotherapy is about establishing a relationship between the therapist and the client, as such, transference is a natural part of psychotherapy. The way to deal with transference and counter-transference is to discuss it with your clinical supervisor.
The first step is to recognize your bodily sensations. I once worked with an aged client, and while I was in the session, I realized that certain familial emotions were surfacing within. Supervision is essential to resolve a situation in which you might be projecting something onto your client, or vice-versa. For a new therapist who has just started practicing, supervision is extremely important. I still meet my supervisor regularly.
How does dance movement therapy differ from regular dancing?
The main difference between dance and dance movement therapy is the role of the facilitator and then the process and intention. In dance, the teacher’s role is instructional, the intention is to learn a particular routine, and the overall outcome is an energized, endorphin flushed feel. Whereas in dance movement therapy, the role of the therapist is not to teach but to hold the space, there is no specific goal or technique, as the focus lies on the process, and the intention is not to make the client feel better or happier, but to work with their emotions.
Earlier on, the body and the mind were never talked of separately. But with increased acceptance of the westernized thought and school of medicine, it has now become two separate things. Dance movement therapy works on the interplay between the mind and the body. Our bodies hold an abundance of wisdom and can direct us on our paths. Movement can be as small as a heartbeat.
What is a phobia, and how can it be overcome?
Phobias come from a multitude of reasons: genetic factors and past experiences being the primary ones. Phobia relates to fear when some deregulation takes place within the system as a result of exposure to certain external stimuli. Some phobias are more complex than others, for example, social anxiety or zoophobia. Systematic desensitization helps de-sensitize the triggers which cause that fear.
The way I look at phobia is through the concept of Window of Tolerance that dictates that any stimuli happening within the window of tolerance is going to make you feel regulated. Imagine a wave going through this window of tolerance. If the window starts shrinking as the wave is passing through, the wave will spill out and go into space. This is called hyper-arousal, where you get anxious, scared, angry, nervous, etc. If the wave starts going under the window, then it is known as hypo-arousal, which is when you get depressed, sad, and numb.
If you look at phobia from a trauma-informed lens, we see that with every traumatic experience, the window of the body and mind shrinks, which is why we start feeling dysregulated. The goal is that through reflection, intervention, psychotherapy, etc., the window should expand to keep hypo-arousal and hyper-arousal at bay.
Is closure real? How can it be achieved?
Closure is a very real thing. It indicates you’re gaining awareness and recognition of a situation and acknowledging your own experience in that situation. It is a safe space, and it’s imperative to create it yourself rather than expecting others to bring you closure. It takes a lot of therapy, communication, awareness, information, healing, and regulation to achieve it. You seek closure when a memory comes to your mind, that this is what happened, but you feel that something still needs to be fixed, or something is amiss. Therapy helps fill that gap.
How can a person deal when plans go awry due to unforeseen circumstances?
Relax, we are amid a pandemic. It is okay if things don’t go the way you want them to. There is so much uncertainty right now. The goals we had set for 2020 at the beginning of the year may not be valid anymore. There is a difference between surviving and thriving. Right now we may need to focus on surviving through this pandemic as we reground, reorganize, and restructure. We must embrace acceptance and forgiveness. A client recently told me, ‘Today, I forgive myself for not paying attention to my body.’ Not being hard on ourselves is paramount. We need to forgive ourselves and start adapting to the ‘new abnormal,’ as people are calling it.
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is pulling ourselves away from the emotions that we need to feel given the situation to comprehend and overcome it. It leads to being dismissive about one’s feelings, which creates a conflict within. Instead, we need to brave the storm before we act all rainbows and sunshine. When has telling someone to get over it, or cheer up ever worked? Neuroscience dictates that unless you are aware of something, you cannot change it. Psychotherapy too preaches awareness.
I call this process, ‘ The 3 As,’ awareness, acceptance, and adaptation. Toxic positivity skips awareness and acceptance and straightway jumps to adaptation. It is a maladjusted coping mechanism where the person puts on a front while shutting away their real emotions.