The Family Dance

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Family therapy, like couples counseling, can seem daunting for many reasons, with one of the biggest being getting everyone on the same page (at the same time, same place) to show up literally and figuratively. But, like couples counseling and even like individual therapy, the parts affect the whole, so when the whole unit indeed shows up, the therapeutic work can be intense but powerfully beneficial individually and collectively.

The Family Dance is the way in which the family relates verbally and nonverbally, so while talk therapy is productive and helpful to unpack problems, adding the body-based component to therapy can offer:

  • body awareness for communication patterns and emotional needs

  • take-home tools to help establish boundaries and provide nonviolent communication

What does body-based family therapy actually look like in session? Families comes in all shapes and sizes and organizations, so each family session could look different. Maybe it’s a mom and daughter working through friction. Maybe it’s two parents learning how to tolerate distress and be the grounded containers for their two young children who, due to normal development, can’t regulate their emotions on their own yet. Maybe it’s a combination of co-parents and stepchildren. In other words, each situation is different, and it truly might be hard for every single family member to show up. The idea is to start somewhere, decide who needs most support and show up.

Then, the Family Dance can start to be repaired, and we explore it from an attachment-based somatic framework aiming to re-pattern any ruptures or imbalances in the initial attachment dances. The first few days and months of building an attached relationship to the caregiver(s) sets the stage not only for the infant but also for the caregiver’s ability to stay attuned throughout the child’s development. (This is a good thing because a “Good Enough Mother” is just that — Good Enough, Not Perfect. Therefore, she/he will not catch every cue, but the practice of attuning and being curious about connection lays a foundation of trust, security and love for years ahead.)

From a body-based approach, we can explore verbal and nonverbal connection from the nuanced power of eye contact and tone of voice to standing on our own two feet when communicating clearly or setting boundaries. Additionally, nervous system psycho-education and awareness plays a powerful role in helping caregivers to co-regulate not only their children but also the family’s “emotional skin” as a whole.

Curious about how this approach might work for you and your family? Feel free to connect with me for a 15-minute phone conversation to see how we might work together.