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Moving toward Recovery

“Dancing Mindfulness” combines healing movements with free-form expression to provide a new therapy for trauma.

Illustration Credit: Dancing Egrets by Michelle Morin

Mandy Hinkle has been in and out of therapy since she was six years old, trying to cope with the aftermath of childhood abuse. But, she says, the catalyst for her healing came when she tried “dancing mindfulness”—a new approach to trauma therapy that combines the neurological benefits of certain movements with focused mindfulness training.“Talk therapy can only do so much,” she says. “With me, there’s an energy that gets blocked that talking couldn’t seem to solve. There’s a catharsis with this, a release.”Psychologist Jamie Marich, the creator of dancing mindfulness, says the secret to its effectiveness is bilateral movement—a side-to-side motion that triggers calming centers of the brain.Psychologists have been using controlled bilateral movement to treat trauma disorders since the early 1990s. Early research showed that trauma survivors exhibited erratic eye movements when experiencing a disturbing memory. When those patients were instructed to focus on side-to-side eye movements instead, it was shown to be as effective as more established treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing the …

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