Exploration of Inter-Subjective Dynamics in Facial Movement/ Expression in Dance Movement Therapy Practice

Exploration of Inter-Subjective Dynamics in Facial Movement/ Expression in Dance Movement Therapy Practice

Sylvain Méret

Master Thesis Submitted to the Dance Academy CODARTS Rotterdam, In Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Dance Therapy.

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Abstract

The focus of this research is, facial movement/expression (FM/E), studied within a mixed group of psychiatric patients. Using a heuristic process, the research question was: “How facial movement/expression may contribute to Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) with psychiatric patients?” The findings led to inquire more deeply into inter-subjective events occurring at the local micro-level of the face.

The research assumption was that FM/E might provide a sensitive experience of movement and expression (two components of DMT) as micro local stimulation for developing an awareness of physical and subjective moving perceptions. These inter-sensorial and inter-subjective effects were conceptualized under the term “Forms of Vitality Dynamic” (FVD) coined by the research done on infants by Stern (1985, 2004, 2010). Within this conceptual frame, the “dyadic system” based on pre-verbal communication between baby and mother in their face-to-face attunement was linked to DMT concepts of attuning and mirroring (Beebe & Lachmann, 2014; Chaiklin & Wengrower, 2009).

Vignettes from patients are presented, which describe particular aspects of FVD in relationship to facial activity.

The results show, that patients respond differently to FM/E stimuli, according to their personal history, their personality, and type and progression of their illnesses. The combination of FM/E and their vital expression observed in DMT sessions inducts clinical implication on the perception of vital energy, regulation of affect, social engagement, and attentional patterns. Due to the small scale and heuristic nature of the study, this needs to be inquired for further generalization.

From the findings and supported by theoretical research, it can be suggested that FM/E and FVD awareness may refine dance therapists’ clinical practice, especially in attuning, mirroring or synchronizing interventions. It can be outlined that the research had beneficial outcome for the therapist-researcher in term of experiential learning for the future development of his practice. 

Key words: Dance Movement Therapy; Facial Movement Expression; Forms of Vitality Dynamic; Heuristic; Attunement; Mirroring; inter-subjectivity, adult psychiatry.

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