It is an honor to be named the Dancer of the Month for July 2015! Who would have thought that in just two short years this would be happening to me? No one would have - especially not me. I remember teaching my first solo Dancing Mindfulness class and how extremely nervous I was. I have presented in front of audiences of my peers and students many times in my life, so I was not sure about why I was so nervous. Maybe I was nervous because I wanted to be perfect. I wanted the class to be perfect. I wanted everyone to love the class. I wanted everyone to have a positive experience. I think that is because I love the fact that I know there is an opportunity to positively affect someone’s life in each and every Dancing Mindfulness class.
The great thing about Dancing Mindfulness for me is that it has helped me fulfill my lifelong ambition of “helping people to help themselves.” We may not always hear about the ways that Dancing Mindfulness has had an effect on our students’ lives, but when we do, it makes it all worth it! For example here are a few success stories:
From evaluations from the classes I learned that students appreciated the following: the choice of music and inspirational messages; encouragement to be individually expressive/own style; found it relaxing, innovative music, no judgment about physical limitations, and some requested to have some specific steps/routines that can be incorporated. So, as my teaching of Dancing Mindfulness continues, I’ll remember all the good outcomes, add a few choreographed steps as appropriate, and hope that the healing continues for me and for all of the participants in Dancing Mindfulness.
I was asked to write a couple of words of wisdom that have helped me with Dancing Mindfulness. In my attempt to do that I’ve come to the realization that it is not the words of wisdom that have helped me the most. I’ve found the feelings, emotions, actions, reactions, smiles, laughs and tears of both sorrow and joy have been the most inspiring pieces of wisdom that I’ve experienced. I’m not a wordsmith, nor can I recite lines from movies, books, or poems, but I have extreme empathy, emotions, and feelings. I try to understand those during preparation and execution of every Dancing Mindfulness class. It’s like on our tombstones there will be a birth year and a death year and in between them will be a dash. It’s important to understand that it’s not the dates that matter… it’s the dash. Pick your own path, live your own life, (even if it pisses off others), and be proud of yourself! Make the “dash” in your life be exemplary and include a “dash dance” in your next Dancing Mindfulness class! Make it memorable! Be open and learn to trust in your style! You will make a difference in someone’s life … know it in your heart!
Thank you for the opportunity to share what little wisdom I have to offer now as I’m still learning as my dash continues---
Originally Published on StartAgain Media
When I was in graduate school for mental health counseling, I didn’t learn a damn thing about self-care. The official curriculum obsessively focused on theories and techniques, standards and measures; the faculty just seemed to assume that we knew how to take care of ourselves. My Ph.D. program didn’t offer me with much more in the way of guidance and instruction, and in talking to my peers in the helping professionals, not learning to take care of ourselves as professionals is the exception rather than the rule in graduate training. And then we wonder why there is such high turnover in the counseling professions; we lament when people, on average end of leaving the fields of helping after 3-4 years of work. Clearly something is lacking in how we train helping professionals…
Although the field has evolved since the days where psychodynamic methods ruled the landscape, there is something to be said about the tradition of that to become a psychoanalyst, you needed to be psychoanalyzed yourself. When I asked my graduate school advisor (Master’s level) why personal counseling is not required to become a counselor, she answered that too many legal barriers exist in the modern era to making people do counseling. Other research-driven peers insist that the empirical literature is not conclusive on whether or not you have to go through personal therapy to be a good therapist. Yet there is some evidence out of an amazing study done in Australia (Charman, 2005) to suggest that high performers (e.g., therapists whose patients are more likely to meet established outcomes measures) describe themselves as mindful, intelligent, intuitive, open, patient, creative, flexible in personality, and self-aware. Moreover, these helpers also identify as not having an agenda, as having care and concern for others, having an awareness of their own issues, and are able to take care of themselves. In my view, this study gives evidence to what may of us discover the hard way---you must take care of yourself in order to be effective as a helper. “Counselor, heal thyself” is more than just a cute saying. There are other ways besides professional therapy to take care of oneself (yet speaking for myself, I would never have survived as a therapist if I didn’t have my own therapy at the onset and at strategic points throughout); regular practices in meditation and mindfulness, spiritual practices, involvement with 12-step or other support groups, regular exercise, setting time aside for hobbies, and having clear release rituals are just a few that jump out as powerful strategies.
In the coming weeks, I will be featuring a series on strategies for improving self-care as helping professionals. I’ll discuss some of the methods I talked about here in greater depth, take a look at why it is so hard for those of us who are drawn to helping others to follow our own suggestions for self-care, and I’ll talk about my practice’s commitment to helping other professionals in an approach that I call Healing the Wounded Healers.
Charman, D. (2005). What makes for a “good” therapist? A review. Psychotherapy in Australia, 11(3), 68–72.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity