Embodying Empathy: Dance/Movement Therapy after Unthinkable Trauma. In post-conflict Sierra Leone, David Alan Harris launched the world's first dance/movement therapy group for former child combatants. Dancing essentially reprogrammed the ex-boy-soldiers' traumatized nervous systems and enabled the youths to mend the mind-body split that had alienated them from themselves as from their communities. Calling themselves Poimboi Veeyah Koindu (Orphan Boys of Koindu, in their tribal language) this group of former boy soldiers claimed an international human rights award, the 2009 Freedom to Create Youth Prize, which honored their exceptional courage in using the transformative power of art to reconcile with the community they'd violated. Harris' talk reminds us that, without the dancing, it never would have happened.
David Alan Harris, MA, BC-DMT, NCC, LCAT, LPC is an award-winning Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist and Licensed Creative Arts Therapist who specializes in fostering resilience and recovery among survivors of human rights abuse, and war. Presently, a clinician with the Minds & Hearts in Harmony program for survivors of torture and their families in Maine, David supervised a team of paraprofessional trauma counselors for just under two years in rural Sierra Leone in the aftermath of that African country's ruthless conflict. He introduced counselors in both Liberia and Sierra Leone to dance/movement therapy (DMT) methods. He conducted trainings in a refugee camp, and launched the first DMT group in West Africa—the first anywhere for former child combatants.
David accepted the prestigious Freedom to Create 2009 Youth Prize at London's Victoria and Albert Museum on behalf of the boy soldiers' DMT group. The international human rights award honored the youths' courage in using dance to foster reconciliation with their war-ravaged community. In 2007, the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) bestowed on David both its research award and its Leader of Tomorrow award.
David lectures and writes about the application of DMT, movement-based creative activities, and other pertinent counseling interventions developed to foster psychosocial healing in the aftermath of massive violence. His writings have been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals and he conducts trainings for audiences around the world. He has accepted invitations to speak about his therapeutic work at more than a dozen institutions of higher education, as well as at international gatherings, including the IX International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) Symposium in Berlin; at McGill's Division of Transcultural Psychiatry in Montreal; and at London's Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. Under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State, David has also offered workshops for civil society groups in Zimbabwe during a period of enormous upheaval as a way of boosting local capacity to serve survivors of the country's raging political violence.
You can learn more about Harris' work at http://www.global-wellbeing.org.
Tags: Embodying Empathy: Dance/Movement Therapy after Unthinkable Trauma, dance therapy, dance/movement therapy, trauma, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Disease Or Medical Condition), military, soldiers, Sierra Leone (Country), child soldiers, ex-combatants, mindbody connection, dance, Hip Hop Music (Musical Genre), adta talk, american dance therapy association, ADTA, David Alan Harris, disassociation, Freedom to Create, Youth Prize, empathy, embodiment, healing, Counseling Psychology (Field Of Study)