This summer 2018 Sebastiana Black, UK based VMT practitioner and therapist, traveled to her native country of The Czech Republic to facilitate two Voice Movement Therapy workshops. The first, a 4-day residential workshop, took place in the quiet of the Broumov Monastery in the east of Czechia. The second was a series of three evenings and was held in Vlčí Hora in the north of the country.
The workshops attracted people from different walks of life, such as dancers, therapists, presenters, speakers, educators, singers, managers and other professionals and seekers. Both groups were small, 8 and 10 people; this intimate number allows for the work to go deeper and for the participants to feel safe to share and explore many facets of their voice in connection to their inner and outer life.
Voice Movement Therapy encourages an undoing of tension in the vocal instrument and body and opening of the voice, which lead to more ease, authenticity and range of expression. Furthermore, working with the embodied voice and breath allows us to slow down, learn to connect mindfully and kindly with our experience, create support for the voice and the self and gain insights. Within the group our stories and explorations enrich us collectively. We discover that some of our inhibitions and challenges around the voice are part of a common humanity, which can in itself bring some perspective and healing.
In both workshops we cultivated attitudes of self-compassion, acceptance, curiosity and non-judgment which nourish our voice and psyche, as well as being a helpful resource in daily life. In this safe space we reclaimed the innocence, power and wisdom of our voice and were able to uncover different aspects of our psyche.
Simone who attended the workshop for the second time had an opportunity to continue working with a theme of darkness. Both this and last year she experienced an overwhelming fear during the exploration of her ‘vocal tube’ and the harmonic timbre called ‘saxophone’1. However this year Simone was able to acknowledge that the fear was linked to a strong voice of her inner critic. The creative exploration of the sub-personalities “inner critic”, “wounded child” and “compassionate adult”, which the group engaged in, allowed Simone to get to know these parts and eventually develop a greater acceptance of them. Compared to the initial reticence and helplessness Simone appeared more hopeful that she can nurture herself. Her voice felt freer of physical tension connected to her somatised fear.
Greta, who had had a throat operation which impacted the control of her voice, felt that she was able to accept her voice as it was and enjoy what it can do, including just the subtle but essential sound of her breath.
A few participants connected to a possibility of a greater vocal freedom within themselves, which they wish to carry into their professional life. Others faced up to their fear of being more authentic in the roles they play. Many rested in their ‘imperfect’ vocalisations and took a risk to be heard anyway. Some discovered the deep somatic release that can arise with a movement accompanied by a spontaneous vocalisation. A satisfying sense of grounding, relaxation and invigoration was found by many.
Among my personal highlights was a mindful walk outdoors after which participants were invited to create short poems (haikus). For many this was a new challenge. The poems then transformed into songs and some were shared in our supportive environment. In both workshops we tasted the art of vocal transformations, and it was a meaningful and heartfelt adventure.
¹ In Voice Movement Therapy ‘saxophone’ is one of the three vocal timbres which are part of the ten vocal components found in each human voice.
[Note: All names used in the article are changed for confidentiality reasons]
by Sebastiana Black, VMTR
Registered Voice Movement Therapy Practitioner