The healing value of community singing and dancing has been recognised by communities across the globe for millennia. They are no less valuable today. Voice Movement Therapy provides contemporary people and communities a way to benefit from singing and dancing within the modern context.
Artwork by Ben Van Rensburg
The power of singing as a group can transform lives. Joining our voices and experiencing the energy of combined resonance and synchronized breathing can quite literally create harmony and connection. VMT group singing programs and projects open up this supportive container to the wider community including, but not limited to: community choirs; youth development programs; women’s empowerment groups; and children’s after-school programs. VMT is also a valuable approach in the context of collective trauma, and with abuse survivors and refugees.
“It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world and at peace with myself”
Support in Pregnancy and Motherhood
The journey to motherhood is a special and often challenging time in a person’s life. Voice Movement Therapy Practitioners accompany mothers-to-be in making this transition process easier. In individual sessions and group contexts, VMT practitioners may offer support though Prenatal Singing, Birth Preparation, as well as Postnatal Care. This application of VMT provides a safe space for mothers-to-be to bond with their baby through the vibration of their maternal voice.
Singing to one’s baby, both before and after birth, has numerous proven physical benefits for both parent and child. Oxygen flow increases, as does the hormone oxytocin, which helps deepen the parent-child bond. Using VMT, a mother-to-be improves her awareness of her body and the many new sensations of pregnancy. She learns to connect movement, breath, and sound to the pelvic floor, and to feel more prepared and empowered for pregnancy, labour, and the postpartum recovery process.
Voice Movement Therapy offers a creative and embodied way of working with children that does not rely solely on verbalization. Space is opened up for the child’s natural impulses for self-expression, play, and connection. The practitioner enters into the world of the child, and through movement and sounding, builds the child’s self-confidence, interpersonal and communication skills, and resilience.
For children who are non-communicative, VMT offers a path towards a gentle opening of the self. Discovering what expressions feel safe, the practitioner compassionately nurtures the child’s expressive development from where they are. The VMT philosophy does not focus on what is ‘lacking’ or ‘wrong.’ VMT works with what is present, what is possible, and what feels safe, and grows from there.
Voice Movement Therapy groups can be an empowering experience for children by helping them find their voice. Groups give children an opportunity to be seen and heard, and to feel a sense of community and connection. Working together to create their own songs and singing together as a group can help children make sense of their world, find flow and connection to Self, others, and nature. Practitioner Sebastiana Black (VMTR) writes:
“In VMT we use for example mirroring games, with vocal sound and movement, which can help to address any missed stages in the child’s development. The relational character of this play, as well as the fact that their expressions are accepted, has positive impacts on the child’s confidence and sense of being seen and known. They can experience shared enjoyment and reciprocity and work through resistance and fear. Children are encouraged to use different vocal sounds which allow for a broader range of expression. Exploring sounds for emotions and sensations can lead to greater emotional literacy and the ability to listen to the body.
Musical instruments are used to create a sense of safety, embodied connection, and to introduce non-verbal communication in which impulses are organised and supported.
In terms of movement and body awareness, VMT helps children to explore different types of expression including gesture, spontaneous dance, and rhythm. They learn about relational and personal space, distance, closeness, boundaries, and safety. Movement is used to build resources for self-regulation, helping children to understand what is calming and what is uplifting and how to better control their body. Connective tools such as scarves, fabrics, balls, and music provide space for sensory and relational experiences and imagination.”
Supporting Teens & Youth
On working with teens, Sebastiana Black (VMTR) writes: “VMT can be beneficial for those adolescents who struggle to find words for their experiences and for those who need support with being more body-aware. The work helps them to look at their challenges in a less cognitive, more creative and embodied way.
Many teens like to bring music that they listen to to the sessions which provides a gateway into their internal world. Working with their imagination (using imagery, symbol and songwriting) can lead to the young person exploring different aspects of themselves such as emotions they struggle with, roles that they play, relationships, and stories they want to tell. Their songs, poems, stories or other creations can be recorded, written down, and read aloud which can enhance their self-confidence.
VMT can assist young people in understanding their breathing better. Making their breathing less shallow can address difficulties with anxiety. When working with young people, some VMT practitioners draw on mindfulness and self-compassion techniques to give clients resources to calm, energize, and know better their body, mind, and heart and to develop a kinder relationship to themselves.”
‘As we sound and let our voice journey illuminate the darkness within and without, we begin to hear, to give space to and become aware of what has been hidden and buried: what has been closed off and held in, initially for survival… With our voices, bodies, souls and minds we offer energetic, vibrational hope as we dive into the totality of the shift we are currently being urged to embrace.’
Re-member with voice
Some of us may become overburdened by excessive fear, guilt, anger, and shame that seems to extend beyond our individuality. Many — maybe all — of us are weighed down by unaddressed and unresolved cultural and generational trauma. The process of Voice Movement Therapy can help us recognise, understand, grieve, honor, and let go of our individual and collective woundings. VMT encourages the introjected and internalised parts of the Self and the family/ancestral/cultural system to come to light, be seen, heard, and assuaged through voice, movement, and ritual.
The time is ripe; urgent; now – for us to fully open our hearts to the resonance of interconnection — of “interbeing” (Charles Eisenstein, Thich Nat Hahn) — to become fully and humbly involved with the “totality of relationship” (Charles Eisenstein). VMT can help us loosen towards the interdependence of all things and the letting go of the traumas that foster separation, disregard, hatred, and violence.
‘I dream of a world where singing can be heard on every street corner, where people hum lullabies to their children and gather to cradle the deceased with comforting raw laments. Where school classrooms, hospital corridors and fruit markets are filled with music. Where songs accompany every rite of passage in life, where singing is as easy as breathing!’