Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What makes tango therapeutic?

What makes tango therapeutic?  If you know the answer to this question, then you will dance throughout your life.

All therapeutic interventions (psychological / physical / spiritual) need certain conditions to have a positive, healing effect. Tango's therapeutic effect is tied to a special mix of psychologically cleansing elements:  Movement, Music and the eMbrace.  These are the Three M's of tango.  Then there is a  "meta-element" which binds them together.  This binding element is improvised tandem movement as a somatic response to the music.

Only the core--the essence--of tango is reliably
therapeutic throughout your life.  Never leave this core even if you stop going to social dance venues.  The therapeutic effect for deeply personal psychological healing with tango therapy is unlikely at a milonga because there's a lack of confidentiality, a lack of being able to talk and process what is happening internally.  The social scene is ever changing, and it's not always the best for a resilient recovery from psychological trauma.

Social connection is important for our overall well-being. Friends, connection with others, joy of movement, a new affection for music, learning a new culture and expanding their cultural awareness--all are important to wellness.  However, if you cannot find a social group that is healthy, do not quit dancing tango because of it!  Return to the essence of tango, the Three M's:  Movement, Music and eMbrace.  If it is necessary, then I recommend that you dance alone or with limited partners.  You truly are a blessed person if you can stay connected for your entire life to a healthy tango community.  Throughout your life, I highly recommend that with or without a therapist, you take the time to dance even alone when nobody's watching.  Do this with great music, graceful movement, and a warm embrace, even if it must an embrace with a pillow or a lonely teddy bear.  Use all three elements, and please tell me what happens!  I'd love to hear from you!

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Extra reading for those interested in my definition of tango therapy for PTSD
I am convinced that the epicenter of effective therapy is dealing with unresolved critical events in our past.  An inventory of unresolved critical events in one's life is a way to understand many problems that have their origins in one's past. Tango therapy reviews each of the unresolved critical events in one's life until each do not haunt the person receiving treatment.  Tango therapy is a soothing and mostly non-verbal way to get at these critical events and find resolutions.  So tango therapy's best chance at making people whole is a type of psycho-trauma therapy which needs very controlled conditions.
  • The first condition is to have a clear understanding before starting if the person has the personal resources to face the traumatic history.  Does the person have trusted resources of friends, family and community?  If not, these resources must be first developed.
  • One needs a therapist who is trained in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The therapist needs to know how to pace the review of memories and avoid "emotional flooding" by stopping at the right moments to process and reset.  Therapists who know interventions with music or movement are best suited for this.
  • The therapist and client need to pull together an inventory of the person's most euphoric moments in life and a list of critical events that still bother the person.
  • One needs a setting that is safe, including the therapist and the partner dancing with the identified patient.  The therapist does not do any dancing with the patient.
  • One needs to carefully choose music that is most likely to move the person to dance, but not any music that might have conscious or unconscious meaning to the client, which might bring up other critical events that will complicate the therapy.