Expressive Movement Therapy

The hospital offers a range of treatments to support patients undergoing stroke rehabilitation. Currently, an exciting and innovative therapy is underway on the Mary Robertson Ward, led by dance movement psychotherapist Vanessa Martin.

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Vanessa Martin

Funded by the League of Friends (LoF), the new expressive movement therapy sessions are intended to support patients, who have experienced stroke, to come to terms physically and emotionally with what’s happened to them.

“Because stroke is so instantaneous, there’s no preparation time and there’s no emotional support for people.”

Vanessa Martin

This pioneering creative arts therapy uses the body and movement to facilitate people’s expression and communication. Vanessa explains, “This is emotional rehab. Whereas physiotherapy and occupational therapy address physical rehabilitation, I am concerned with patients expressing something using their body, or through vocalisation, that helps them feel better. Hopefully this will lead to them engaging more with the other therapies.”

“My emphasis is with those patients who are struggling to come to terms with what’s happened. Understandably, a lot of people get depressed and frustrated. My aim is to give people the means to express their emotions directly or indirectly within a group or one to one setting.”

Vanessa Martin

Music plays an important part in each session, and Vanessa gave an example of how fist shaking and punching to rock music has been used by patients to help them release their frustration. Indeed, there has been cross pollination of the projects funded by the LoF as Vanessa uses both the patient wi-fi and My Life software to access music that the patients desire. This is proving invaluable for Vanessa and the patients, “It makes life so much easier and is a real boost to the patients in the group. It’s absolutely fantastic.” 

For the future it is hoped that Vanessa will present her work with the hospital at conferences in order to share her insights, she also aspires to undertake a PhD to investigate further how expressive dance psychotherapy can support people with neurological conditions, particularly stroke. As she says, “This is a 12 session pilot project and we don’t know the effect that the therapy will have. There’s a good evidence base of it being used with Parkinsons disease and dementia but this is very new.”

Finally, Vanessa expressed her appreciation to the League for funding such a new therapy and believing in it. She went on to note that in her experience the League of Friends of South Petherton Hospital is the most proactive group of its kind that she has come across in the South West. We are delighted to hear this!