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Lasting Relationship Back to News and Gossip Pages;
Dont fence me in:
A recipe for peachy relationships
Some couples adore we-speak. We think camping holidays are the most fun or We never eat bioengineered foods in our home. And yet, the first time we realize that I and the rest of the world are not the same is when we cry out for food or comfort and Mommy-Warm-Thing isnt there (Oh no its me and not them!).
As we toddle through our lives, trying to share and connect, we keep running into the annoyances that come with the lovely comfort of being part of a couple. We constantly make decisions about what we expect in a relationship and what we see as our own domain. Ill play on your softball team but you have to book some games in my part of town.
So whats me and whats you? If we are a couple, then do we speak as a unit or are we just sharing the bathroom fixtures?
All relationships have rules. Some keep us from having to think too much; others preserve a sense of connection and privacy. At the beginning of a relationship, we rarely announce the rules or that those who fracture them will suffer some predetermined sentence (garbage duty for three weeks). But unspoken regulations often separate the humans involved. For example, no matter how close you are to your partner, you probably prefer to have the bathroom door closed when you are doing your business.
This line of demarcation preserves a sense of mystery about our most vulnerable moments. We want to keep some small part of ourselves for ourselves. This is where I start and you end. Diaries and journals are another way of announcing this intention. Yes, we had the same experience at that conference, but this is my interpretation, OK?
Studies often conclude that healthy relationships have room for shared values and differences of opinion. Nobody has to be in the wrong or changed. Its like when we say, Hey, Im not big on llama farming, but if Jo wants to look into it, no biggie or I like vegetarian food and he likes meat; so we try to find a restaurant that serves both. Contrast that with What a fanatic she wont even touch red meat.
Relationship disasters often come to those with little sense of where they stop and the other person begins. Consider twosomes where one is really hurting the other, but the underdog remains, putting up with whatever is dished out. In a relationship, if you feel you have overstepped your own personal beliefs or needs, back up and ask yourself how this happened. Were you under undue strain, far away from friends and family lonely, recently rejected? Do you tend to find people who treat you poorly because you think thats what you deserve? Do you plan to stay in a dungeon instead of a castle? Sometimes action is needed, pronto.
Our fantasies and imagination are other places we erect barriers and post "no trespassing" signs. Perhaps you once told your significant person about a wild fantasy you had about sex with a co-worker on the bosss desk. And maybe after sharing, you wished youd kept it private. The next time he asks, What are you thinking? you might want to answer, Oh, just wondering whether the soil problem in the rain forest will be solved in the next 10 years.
Living together or getting married is an announcement: Humans here have agreed on a lot of things. Please come in. That doesnt translate into We have one brain and run it off two portals. A vital and exciting partnership needs fodder, and independence of action and thought are provocative. The balance between reserving enough time for self-nourishment and enough for connection is the recipe for peachy relationships.
I didnt say there wouldnt be any yelling I just said an interesting relationship.
Men says about women Back to News and Gossip Pages;
Behind closed doors:
By Anna Ceraldi
It all started with a lingering lunch out with a girlfriend. A table away sat a group of five well-dressed, animated men. The kind of guys youd see at any trendy hot spot over the power-lunch hour. We got up to leave and they asked us to join them for a drink. Warmed by a few glasses of cabernet, we accepted. My girlfriend had to rush off 10 minutes later. I stayed three hours.
Something magical happened when we threw out the casual chitchat and agreed to take advantage of this unusual situation. We decided to find out everything we had always wanted to know about the opposite sex. We would hold nothing back.
I threw out the icebreaker: If you could be a woman for a day, whats the first thing you would do?
Rather predictably, four said, Stay in bed and play with myself and one said shave my legs. Then it was my turn. I said if I could be a man for a day, the first thing I would do is sit in front of the TV and scratch my balls. I won them over.
We talked about the importance of a positive male role model on female children (all but two have daughters). We discussed relationships, what drives a man, what makes a woman attractive, why men cheat. By the time we left, the waiter was setting the table for dinner and we had agreed to meet again exactly one month later. Same place, same time.
I struggled with the fact that all but one of us were married or in a relationship. Did this qualify as cheating? Were we being disrespectful to our partners? If we agreed on a few terms, I didnt think so. We would remain on a first-name basis only. There was to be no contact outside of our meetings and what was discussed had to stay within the group.
So we gather each month and we continue to grow. I have been shocked, angry, enlightened and puzzled by much of what "my boys" have told me about men. Ive also realized that I fought a losing battle in trying to change the nature of the beast in previous relationships.
The planets of Venus and Mars can remain on a collision course or we can navigate our way through to some degree of harmony. Im told that means accepting certain truths. Men will always be wanderers in body and spirit. We can only have a piece of them. They need distractions whether its another woman, a career, a god or a hobby. You decide which one you want to encourage.
Men need lots of sex. No matter how outdated the notion of "pleasing your man" may be or what pressures a woman may be under, men feel a cold chill in the marital bed is a rejection of them. Its their No. 1 complaint. Do they cheat? Most do, at least once. Do they feel guilty? Only if theyre caught. Although all admit that making love with the one you love is most fulfilling, the fantasy of anonymous and mindless sex rages on. No amount of love can extinguish it. But men daydream about their partners too. Predictably, mostly about sex. What he really wants to know is: Have you been with or ever fantasized about sex with a woman?
Do they think about us when theyre out there conquering the world? Brace yourself. Not much. Women can multi-task, lamenting and obsessing about their relationships while at work or play. Men are capable of doing only one thing at a time. To smooth the road to domestic bliss, they will often tell us what we want to hear.
Total honesty is not only a myth but also undesirable. Mystery is key, and herein lies the secret to happy couples: Be a mystery right back. Throw them a curveball once in a while. Im not advocating any form of deceit, but forget full disclosure. When it comes to long-term partnerships, too much familiarity does breed contempt.
As for the hairier sex, theyre left grappling with a growing identity crisis. We dont need men to be breadwinners anymore. We need true partners in life: nurturers to our children and us; decent cooks; diaper changers and great conversationalists. All of the things that simply do not come naturally to those born with the Y chromosome. Since John Wayne faded to black, weve tried to deprogram thousands of years of social evolution in the name of equality. The problem is, men still feel compelled to provide, compete, conquer, do rather than say. Thats why they still live largely in a boys' club network of friends and activities in which few women are allowed entry.
Before you panic, consider this. Men really do want to please us. Its when talking about their wives and children that the guys in my lunch group become most passionate. Its quite endearing. I hope Ive encouraged them to take a more active role in nurturing the many facets of the women in their lives.
Ive changed too. I now accept that some things are better off left as mysteries. The truth doesnt always set you free. Im off to lunch.
Anna Ceraldi is a free-lance writer, broadcast journalist and video producer from Vancouver, B.C. In addition to producing local and national television news programming, she is a regular contributor to Vancouver Lifestyles Magazine. Anna lives in Vancouver with her 14-year-old daughter, Shanna. She also wrote Baby or career: a painful choice for UnderWire.
Nice guys dont flirt: Back to News and Gossip Pages;
How and why they should
By Jenn Shreve
When my close friend Eric developed a crush on a woman who worked in a nearby tea shop, he spent weeks contemplating how he would approach her. Striking up a conversation while ordering Earl Grey seemed too bold. If he lingered too long at a table by himself, he'd seem like a loser. But if he showed up with a group of guy pals, he might come across like a macho jerk.
He settled on arriving at the shop with a posse of female friends to demonstrate, as he puts it, that he was "pre-approved by the female sex." In this way, he was finally able to nervously introduce himself to the woman behind the counter. Amusingly enough, they became friends. She introduced him to her co-worker, whom he ended up dating for more than a year.
My boyfriend, when he was single, used to buy women drinks. But before the beverage could even be delivered, he'd run out of the bar, unsure and afraid of the next step. A handsome, eligible dentist I know recently needed several pep talks before he could phone a woman. Another nice guy pal has simply given up on flirting. He cannot imagine a line or approach that wouldn't seem contrived or insulting to a woman's intelligence. Better not to flirt at all than inadvertently confirm a woman's worst fears about male behavior.
What a dreadful loss to womankind! Nice guys the ones we want to meet and fall in love with don't flirt. Meanwhile, a verbose minority of jerks wreaks havoc with their uninhibited flirtatious ways. They whistle at women on the street, introduce themselves with cheesy lines, leer at breasts and legs but never brains. In short, they sully the reputations of their fellow men with rude, crude and socially unacceptable behavior.
Why don't nice guys flirt? A nice man considers the woman's feelings above his own. He figures she probably doesn't want to be disturbed by a total stranger; best to leave well enough alone. A nice man is humble. He does not consider himself to be God's greatest gift to womankind, so he does not assume that she will see him as such. A nice man puts friendship before sex. He would rather get to know somebody slowly than come on strong from Day One.
The fear of making a bad impression looms large. Men, if they want to flirt successfully, must come across as both confident and harmless. It's a difficult balance to maintain. If you lean too far in either direction, the consequences are disastrous.
"The opposite of confident is a loser, Eric says. The opposite of harmless is even worse."
Throughout my adult life, for reasons I can't quite explain, my close friends have almost all been men. Not just any men, mind you. These are Grade A quality chaps nice, smart, handsome, polite the kind you want to place atop a pedestal and bring home to mom. Thanks to these friendships, I've gotten a first-rate education in the mind of our brothers of the XY chromosome. I've come to understand their hopes and fears, their joys and guilty pleasures.
And when it comes to anxieties, few things rate higher with these fellows than flirting. They talk about it constantly. I've been asked to scour e-mails and phone messages for hidden messages. I offer the female take on when to ask a woman out and how. Hollywood would have us believe that men stand around in locker rooms and sit on barstools bragging of their latest conquests. In reality, they are probably bemoaning their paralysis when it comes to approaching, chatting with and asking out members of the opposite sex.
In hopes of helping men overcome their flirting phobia, I've written several articles on the topic. In one, I interviewed a flirting expert. For a glossy national men's magazine, I sent a romantically challenged acquaintance to get private lessons on flirting technique, then unleashed him on a series of bars and parties. I lurked in the background, furiously taking notes.
The secret to giving good flirt, I've learned, is the ability to read and react properly to the signals a woman is sending. A smile means smile back. Two smiles means find an excuse to say hello.
The reason most men fail in flirting is they don't wait for the woman to make the first move. Numerous times I've been somewhere minding my own business when out of nowhere a stranger pops up and starts trying to make conversation. He may be very nice, good-looking and charming. But in my mind I'm wondering, Why in the hell is this man talking to me? What does he want?
Men need to pick their moments well. If a woman is busy, preoccupied or stressed out, the best flirt in the world won't impress her. For ages, I've been telling my friends that if they want to meet and flirt with women, they should go in for weekly manicures.
Flirtatious conversation should focus on her, not you. Ask about her interests, her work, her friends. Find common interests and explore them. Lines never work.
If a man is flirting with someone and, for whatever reasons, she stops sending warm signals, it is important to quickly and politely withdraw. For example, "I'm meeting someone" means "Leave me alone, freakazoid," not "Please stay and talk to me until my date arrives." To accept rejection gracefully is flirting's greatest challenge. I constantly find myself reassuring friends that the reasons for a woman's lack of interest are rarely ever personal.
In the past when men have started flirting with me uninvited, I've responded with such charming tactics as: 1. Smiling and nodding while looking at anyone or anything other than him. 2. Pretending that he doesn't exist. 3. Walking away. Or, 4. Telling him in no uncertain terms to go the way of the devil.
Today, I no longer give the automatic brush-off. Instead I try to convey that I'm flattered but not interested (unless he's rude; then he automatically gets the No. 4 treatment). Because I sympathize with how difficult it must have been to make that initial gesture. And because, if the guy seems nice, I want to encourage him in his flirting endeavors. Chances are, if he keeps at it, he'll eventually introduce himself to the right woman.
Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology, relationships and popular culture for Salon.com, the San Francisco Examiner, Wired and other publications. Her last story for UnderWire was about women escaping abuse.
Living Better and Sexuality Back to News and Gossip Pages;
Ooh La La!
By Ben Kallen
WebMD Medical News
Medically reviewed by Dr. Jeannie Brewer
July 31, 2000 -- So there's this woman -- extremely cute, ridiculously smart, shares my taste in movies, and, strangely enough, seems as interested in me as I am in her. Of course, when I met Kathie Lee (OK, that's not her real name), my first impulse was not to enjoy my good luck but to wonder how I would manage not to blow it. After all, if you find a wad of cash in the street and dump it all on stock in Bellyup.com, it's worse than never having had the money in the first place.
To make sure things would go the way I wanted them to, I decided I had to make myself as attractive -- no, make that downright sexy -- as possible. But what does that mean? After all, this is a confusing time for guys. These days, male sexiness isn't just based on being strong yet gentle, confident yet caring, powerful yet modest -- we're also expected to have rock-hard pecs and abs of steel.
Off to School
To find out what really makes a guy sexy, I turned to Barbara Biggs, PhD, a Los Angeles therapist who specializes in sexuality issues. She was willing to get right to the issue at hand.
"First of all, not all women are attracted to the same things," she tells me. I can see that. Like most guys I know, I would like to look good to rocket scientists and Rockettes alike. I would like all women to like me. But, upon reflecting, I see her point. Not all women are going to be attracted to me, just as I'm not attracted to all women. So, we might as well focus our efforts on finding those who find us at least initially appealing.
Already a Snag
Unfortunately, Biggs tells me, some women may find you appealing one day but not others, depending on what they're looking for at the moment. If she's just looking for an exciting partner for the night, a woman might choose someone entirely different from the man she'd like to have a relationship with. Women may look for a real "he-man" for the fling, even though in the long term they'd rather have someone they can really talk to.
(Note to self: Enough time in the day to increase my he-man qualities and my communication skills? Check calendar.)
"We always hear women say that 'sensitive' is sexy, but if a guy is too sensitive, he isn't seen as manly," I tell Biggs. "So where do you draw the line?"
"That's a very wiggly line," Biggs says. "Many women would like a man to be sensitive and have the ability to talk about feelings. In fact, a woman will feel that if she can get intimate in conversation with a man, it will be easier to share physical intimacy. But at the same time, she wants him to have some kind of quality that represents masculinity." That could mean many things to many women, Biggs says. It could mean having a large build or a protective quality, or being a tad more sexually aggressive than she is.
The Appeal of Wealth and Power
Then, of course, there's the special sex appeal of wealth and power, which Biggs says are still important to some women. So what can someone whose last name isn't Trump or who doesn't run even a medium-sized company do to take on that aura of authority? Giving off that commanding vibe isn't always dependent on your bank balance, Biggs says. "Some men are so supremely confident that they gain a degree of power just by moving through life that way," she says. Ah-ha -- now we're getting somewhere.
And how do you get that extra dash of confidence? Biggs suggests psychotherapy, which seems a bit extreme -- I was thinking more along the lines of a new shirt. I could also take on an air of self-assurance by making more direct eye contact and not slouching, she says.
Now we get to the real question -- what can I do to improve my attractiveness quotient, to exude sex appeal? She looks me up and down like Ralph Nader working an auto show. "You look most attractive when you're smiling," she tells me. (I knew I should have thought twice about that philosophy major.) She then tells me I look a bit, er, rumpled -- my shoe is untied, and she doesn't care for the gray color of my pants. On the positive side, she says I have a very nice face and that my beard brings out my blue eyes (a line I intend to repeat to the relative who told me it makes me look like a terrorist).
She recommends that I cultivate a warm and friendly approach to everyone I meet, so I can call on that same attitude whenever I come across an attractive woman. Finally, she tells me to relax and be myself. (Now, that one's so crazy it just might work.)
The Acid Test
I decide to try out these techniques on my next date with K.L. I dress neatly, look her right in the eyes, and deliver my friendliest smile. In response, she treats me exactly the way she did before. It strikes me that she probably had my number right from the start, and nothing I do now is going to change her opinion. In which case, relaxing and being myself is probably about the best thing I can do.
But just out of curiosity, I ask her what she thought of me when we first met -- and she replies that she thought I was kind of sexy.
Now I find I'm standing up straighter and smiling a lot more. If other women find this sexy, well, that's their tough luck.
Ben Kallen is senior writer for Men's Fitness magazine. He has also written on health, nutrition, and psychology for Shape, Muscle & Fitness, and New Age Journal.
Wired for romance Back to News and Gossip Pages;
Web dos and donts
Write a letter to a stranger and its called "communication." If you reveal some personal tidbits of your life, thats called "getting connected." If you are single, theres a chance that some magic may even happen. When you talk with a cyberbuddy about your boyfriends lack of passion and lovemaking technique, however, thats crossing the line from entertaining chit-chat into the restricted zone.
No matter where you start, remember that the person you meet in a chat room or discussion group may not be who they say they are. Wiry, articulate, cultured Damiens iambic pentameter turns out to actually be composed by his younger sister, the English lit whiz. The fact that he regularly dines on doughnuts and little else is not mentioned. Oops.
Thats the obvious case. There are also those who mean well but "misperceive" who they see in the bathroom mirror. Some folks are clearly looking for love on-screen; others are just looking for a way to amuse themselves perhaps at your expense. Dont fling yourself into the flat land of the monitor, hoping that all will translate well into three dimensions.
Some dos and doo-doos:
Move slowly. Relationships including the online kind build on previous exchanges. If you are in a rush to fall in love by tomorrow, you will make gross judgment errors today. Do not pack your overnight bag and skip to Monroe, Louisiana after two chats with Wilhelm. He might easily be Silly Willie the Town Rogue with a pregnant girlfriend.
Be clear about who you are. Dont offer up a better-enhanced version of yourself if you hope to ever meet this person in the real world. On the other hand, if you are merely hunting for a thrill with Pseudo Phil the Human Drill, then you can be whomever you cook up.
Dont leave a mess behind. Online flirting works much better if you are solo not squirreling away a secret life to be exposed later by your long-term boyfriend. There are simple ways for a lover/friend/spouse to track your computer travels; checking the Netscape "about: global" or Internet Explorer "History" or mining the cache files will all spew out unsavory and hidden trails. And you dont have to be a Net detective to do it.
Are you chatting or cheating? If youre in a real-life relationship, its a faded gray line at best. If your keys are stroking someone elses private parts but only in text is that a full frontal contact? Many say yes, because the emotional component of a love affair counts not just in minutes per week of intercourse. One of my readers found a stranger emerging from the technology in the office: I made him listen to tapes I secretly recorded. He is very vocal while climaxing on his computer, but not with me.
Some people are unbalanced enough to believe that all their life problems, boredom and aches can be magically fixed by connecting with a lover of top quality. These are men and women yet to figure out that a new set of legs and lips is not the cure for all ailments. Some are wired to anonymous boisterous sex that would be solo sex, one hand on the computer equipment, one on their own. Numerous people have written to tell me tales of apparently well-adjusted men and women leaving their partners for freshly minted online associations:
At first I blamed myself, but I found out he was chatting with women about myself and our family problems. He left me with three beautiful boys and all his bills, including a mortgage. He has 15 years to pay child support, a van that is 10 years old and absolutely no credit unless his mom and daddy co-sign for him! So go ahead and have him. The girl that thinks hes worth it can have the lying snake hes a real credit to his gender!
Chances are that guy was a bottom feeder before the Internet came along he would have been bad news in the days of the Pony Express but nevertheless, technology gave him a larger database to assist in dumping his family. The Internet provides a wider forum for lousy behavior. No longer do you need to leave the house to alienate and hurt your loved ones. Now you can hole up and run your campaign of devastation just like the army generals from the comfort of your adjustable armchair. The casualties are those who are too shy to seek help to connect socially, and the villains are the sneaks and sociopaths who delight in running power plays with other peoples lives.
Are there any great stories of online sex? Sure. Those who are confined to home due to disabilities or health, people with long-distance relationships, and unattached men and women who want to keyboard out an anonymous fantasy these may be tickled all over. And yes, there are stories of great love found online. Just dont bet your future on it.
Sweet Science of Dozing Back to News and Gossip Pages;
By Tinker Ready
WebMD Medical News
One of the most important pieces of equipment in the Boston University office of psychologist William Anthony, Ph.D., is a long beige couch. But Anthony doesn't use it for counseling sessions. He takes naps there.
Anthony campaigns tirelessly (except in the early afternoon) to promote the snooze. A short nap, he says, increases productivity, sharpens the senses, and lifts the spirit. "It's what your mother told you when you were a cranky toddler: Go take a nap," he says. "It works the same way with adults."
Anthony's work as Director of BU's Center for Psychological Rehabilitation doesn't involve sleep research. But extolling the virtues of napping in books and on the Internet is a fun sideline for Anthony, who relies as much on silly anecdotes as scientific studies to make his case. Sleep studies, he says, put him to sleep.
But the scientific data documenting the benefits of napping -- at least for some people -- continue to mount. Some of the most recent research suggests that a bad night's sleep can stress the body as well as the mind.
One such study, reported in the October 23, 1999 issue of The Lancet, suggests that missing sleep throws the body's metabolism off kilter. Scientists at the University of Chicago studied physical changes in 11 young men who slept four hours per night for six nights in a row. They found that sleep deprivation seemed to trigger a diabetes-like condition, harmed hormone production, and interfered with the ability to use carbohydrates.
But does a nap in the afternoon make up for midnight tossing and turning?
Yes, according to some studies, including those conducted at the Henry Ford Hospital's Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit. Napping is "clearly beneficial to someone who is a normal sleeper but who is getting insufficient sleep at night," says center director Timothy Roehrs, Ph.D. "We don't understand the underlying neurobiology, but sleep time is cumulative."
Roehrs says his group compared the alertness of people who slept eight hours a night to that of people who slept less but took a nap during the day. Both groups were equivalent, he says.
His group has also found benefits in the "prophylactic" nap for people who have to stay up late. "It protected them from sleepiness," he says. "A two-hour or a four-hour nap, before they have to be up all night, does provide additional alertness the next day." Research conducted by NASA produced similar results.
Naps are clearly useful for some people, including shift workers, students, and anyone doing long-haul work, such as pilots on transcontinental runs.
But afternoon sleep won't benefit everyone, especially people suffering from insomnia or depression, says Michael Perlis, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the University of Rochester Sleep Research Laboratory. "In the case of the former, napping may worsen nocturnal sleep in patients with insomnia," he says. "As for the latter, napping may increase depressive symptoms."
Sleep researchers agree that anyone who wants to benefit from a nap should make sure not to lie down too close to bedtime or sleep for more than 90 minutes. Doing so can throw off the circadian rhythm -- the body's internal clock.
The How-To of Napping
Anthony's personal rhythm now includes his afternoon nap. He falls asleep easily -- despite the loud rattle of the Boston's "T" trolley, which runs right past his office -- and wakes up automatically after 20 minutes.
Along with his wife, Camille, Anthony has written two lighthearted "Art of Napping" books, sells napping equipment on a web site, and makes the rounds of the morning talk shows.
His latest campaign is to promote workplace napping. On his web site he sells little signs to hang on your office doorknob that read "Working Nap in Progress."
"Most Americans are sleep deprived," he says. "They're having accidents, they're not being as productive as they could be, and they're being interpersonal dolts -- all because they are sleepy."
In his book, he offers tips on how to sleep at work, something most employers discourage. But Anthony profiles the Pittsburgh office of Delloite Consulting and a Connecticut metals distributor, which offer workers a nap room.
The bottom line, he says: "There is something to be said for getting horizontal."
Shall We Dance? Back to News and Gossip Pages;
By Kimberly Sanchez
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Dr. Craig H. Kliger
Jan. 8, 2001 (St. Louis) -- Patients take off their shoes before beginning therapy with Caroline Heckman. They close their eyes and listen to their bodies. Some will skip or stretch, others will stand cross-armed or pound the floor.
Heckman watches. And when the session is complete, she discusses what she observed.
"Feelings come up -- grief, anger, loss, shame," says Heckman, MA Ed., a registered dance therapist (ADTR) in private practice in St. Louis. "When you start to move the body ... the feelings get activated, too."
For centuries, dance has been recognized as a means of expressing oneself, celebrating life, or performing ritualistic healing. Now, dance is increasingly accepted as a way to help work through one's problems. Whether someone is suffering from sexual abuse or bulimia, breast cancer or depression, advocates say dance therapy can help people gain insight into their behavior, improve their self-esteem, and provide options for coping.
"Movement is a healing force," says Vivien Marcow Speiser, PhD, ADTR, a dance therapy professor and chairwoman of the Institute for Body, Mind and Spirituality at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. "Everybody knows that when you move, you feel better. That's why so many people exercise and take care of their bodies."
Dance therapy officially surfaced in the wards of psychiatric hospitals during World War II, when dance instructor Marian Chace used movement to treat veterans in Washington, D.C. The practice was labeled as a distinct profession in the 1960s and was recognized by President Carter's Commission on Mental Health a decade later. Dance therapy has more recently been the focus of studies receiving federal funding as researchers aim to document its effectiveness. Furthermore, the first U.S. doctorate program in the field is currently being launched.
"As we move into the new millennium, we need to increase the strategies that have evolved for keeping people healthy," says Marcow Speiser. "Dance therapy definitely has its place."
Because dance is a basic communication skill, it is a valuable means of therapy, according to the American Dance Therapy Association. It is used to improve emotional, developmental, mental, social, and physical well-being. Therapists can work with groups or on a one-on-one basis. Dance therapy is currently offered in day care centers, prisons, mental health facilities, and hospitals, and is based on the belief that the body, mind, and spirit are interconnected.
"The whole person is involved in the treatment instead of just the words or the language or the thoughts," says Sally L. Totenbier, ADTR, chairwoman of the association. "We have the language and words and thoughts because they occur along with the movement, but we also have the physical movement with the memories and associations that come from being in movement. You have more layers that are occurring."
About 1,200 dance therapists practice nationwide, according to the association. Many patients are referred to dance specialists through their primary therapists. Even those without any rhythm or dance experience may benefit. In particular, patients who are rigid and have a difficult time vocalizing their feelings can learn to express themselves.
"Dance therapy is not dance technique," says Heckman, who also teaches a dance therapy course at Washington University. "You don't have to be a dancer. It's about movement, and movement can be anything."
Much of the public focus on dance therapy has been in connection with seniors. A study conducted by the dance therapy association in 1996, funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging, concluded that dance/movement therapy improved the functional abilities of seniors with neurological damage due to stroke or traumatic brain injury. The participants, who averaged 74 years of age, reported improvements in mood, social interaction, physical function, and energy levels.
"I'd be hard-pressed to find someone who could not benefit from dance therapy because of their personality or physical abilities," says Totenbier. "With movement of the eyes or small gestures, we can work with those and find a way to help the person use those in an expressive or meaningful way."
Without any training, Sharon Daugherty, MS, found that dance therapy worked for her. As a survivor of incest, she founded Innermotion, a dance theater group made up of sexual abuse survivors who tell a story of healing through dance. The goal of the Ft. Lauderdale-based troupe was to inspire other abuse victims with a message of hope. The result was a sense of awakening for all involved.
"This has empowered the dancers so far beyond what their traditional therapy did," says Daugherty. "Innermotion gives you the opportunity to take all of your strengths and feel safe enough to come up against any more obstacles and to heal them."
Most people involved in dance therapy are female, as are the therapists themselves, but it can be of benefit to young and old, male and female, Totenbier says. It can be the only means of therapy for a patient, or used in conjunction with traditional therapy when words just aren't enough.
"It's one thing to talk about your rage and say, "The next time I get mad, I am going to try this,'" says Totenbier, who has a private practice in Houston. "But when you are doing it with movement, the person is able to put their body in gear, and experience what they do when they are angry, and start to try different interventions. It adds another level, and for many people that is important."
Kimberly Sanchez is a St. Louis freelance writer who has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Dallas Morning News. She is a regular contributor to WebMD.
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