Authentic Movement



“Movement, to be experienced, has to be “found” in the body, not put on like a dress or a coat. There is that in us which has moved from the very beginning. It is that which can liberate us.”
– Mary Whitehouse, Founder of Authentic Movement

Authentic Movement is a subtle yet powerful therapeutic practice that allows individuals to explore the relationship between the creative, psychological and sacred dimensions of their experience through bodily expression. Developing kinesthetic awareness, interpersonal skills, empathy and a sense of embodied presence are often natural outgrowths of the practice. The sensing world is awakened, perceptions clarified, and feelings affirmed – restoring a sense of authority to one’s own bodily-knowing. The approach supports individuals in connecting to a deeper life force that can bring an enhanced sense of meaning to daily experience. The somatic unconscious often becomes more available for awareness and reflection, and a more secure interpersonal attachment style may develop. Group work explores the dynamics of belonging and enhances one’s awareness of one’s unique place and contributions to the wider human community.

Authentic Movement was originated by pioneer dance therapist, Mary Starks Whitehouse in California. The approach developed as Mary integrated her studies at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich with her dance experience and training with German modern dancer Mary Wigman and myth-inspired dancer and choreographer Martha Graham. With its foundations in these disciplines, the practice of Authentic Movement has continued to evolve, providing a process for awakening the spirit in the body and a container for midwifing the soul in psychotherapy, meditation and creative work.

Also called “Movement in Depth” and “Active Imagination in Movement,” Authentic Movement invites a descent into the inner world of the psyche through natural movement and can be practiced in both individual and group settings. In the therapy room, dance studio, or other safe, private environment the mover/client closes their eyes, waits, and then moves in response to body-felt sensations, emotions, memories, movement impulses, and/or images. As they bring awareness, expression and form to the body’s wisdom, they are observed by their therapist/witness. Through her attentive presence and sensitive tracking, the witness holds and contains the experience of the mover, allowing the mover to engage the depth invited by the psyche. Rejected, forgotten, or new, potentiating images, feelings, and energies can then surface and be brought to consciousness through expressive movement. Body-related issues, unresolved developmental material, preverbal memories, and transpersonal experience may emerge, leading toward integration and wholeness.


“The body is the physical aspect of the personality and movement is the personality made visible.”
– Mary Starks Whitehouse

Authentic Movement can be applied in psychotherapy, as a resource for artistic endeavor, or as meditation/sacred dance, providing insight and enhancement of one’s daily life and relationships. The transformative power of this work has roots in Jungian Depth Psychology, developmental psychology, Somatic psychotherapy, dance ethnology and mystical studies. Healing and growth are facilitated through seeing and being seen as one is in the presence of a witness. Awareness is brought to owning interpretations, judgments and shadow material as it emerges, freeing the mover to engage his/her experience directly. In the process, mover and witness together can achieve a level of perception of self and other that evokes deep respect and empathy. No experience in dance is necessary — only curiosity, respect, and a bit of courage to open to the unknown.

Therapists benefit from explorations that nourish and replenish them. They also gain an embodied understanding of how movement can evoke feeling and effect change in patterns of attitude, thinking, imagining and behaving. Insight emerges from the direct experience of the somatic underpinnings of the transference/countertransference relationship.

Artists can return to the well of their own creative impulse, finding ways to move through stuck places, as they re-connect with a deep inner source.

Educators may rediscover a primary source of knowledge, returning to the wisdom of the body as our original text.

Those who seek have an opportunity to engage spirit in matter, accessing cellular knowing that resonates beneath constrictions of personality. Spontaneity, creativity and a profound sense of authenticity become more available as we become more genuinely who we are. Embracing paradox, we learn that the more authentically ourselves we become, the more readily we can connect with something deeply universal.

Group Participants have an opportunity to grasp some of their basic issues, often stemming from family of origin and early cultural experiences, noting how these may affect current body perceptions, movement patterns, feelings, and behaviors within relationship. One can also further the ability to integrate words, experience and action, and discover how working with repressed “shadow” material can promote compassion for self and “other.”

“The roots of this work can be traced to earliest human history when disease was seen as a loss of soul and dance was an integral part of the healing process.”
– Joan Chodorow, Jungian analyst and Dance Therapist

Workshops in Authentic Movement in San Francisco and abroad. Dates and location TBA; please check the workshops page for further updates.

A text of Authentic Movement writings features writings on the body, psyche, spirit, creativity and healing by Authentic Movement practitioners from around the world. Tina Stromsted’s contribution includes a chapter on working with dance and the body in psychotherapy, and a chapter, co-authored with Neala Haze, outlining major elements involved in Authentic Movement training.

Pallaro, P. (Ed.) (2006). Authentic movement: Moving the body, moving the self, being moved, a collection of essays. Levittown, PA Jessical Kingsley Publishers
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