For the past two years, registered Dance/Movement Therapist Whitney L. DiGeronimo, MA, R-DMT, has been a member of the Expressive Therapies Department at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. I recently spoke with her about her role and the “Dance for Parkinson’s” class now offered on-site to HRC residents at our Boston and Dedham locations.
Tell us about your professional background and training, and your role at HRC?
I am a Registered-Dance/Movement Therapist through the American Dance Therapy Association. I received my MA in Dance/Movement Therapy and Mental Health Counseling at Antioch University New England. I have worked at inpatient and outpatient mental health settings providing therapy for individuals and families.
As a member of the Expressive Therapies Department at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, I provide group and individual dance/movement therapy services. As part of the expressive therapies training program, I provide clinical supervision to dance/movement therapy graduate student interns. After receiving teacher’s training from the Dance for PD® organization, I have begun leading weekly Dance for Parkinson’s groups at HRC Boston and HRC Dedham.
Why is dance and movement important to you?
Movement is our first form of communication and self-expression. Movement can be used as a vehicle for a person to identify and express their needs, to discover new strengths, to build confidence, and to connect with one’s community and environment. Dance can be transformational. When used as a therapeutic intervention, it improves wellbeing by supporting cognitive, physical, emotional, and social integration.
Why is it important to have a Dance for Parkinson’s group at HRC?
Many of our residents living with Parkinson’s disease are facing a similar challenge: the progressive loss of independence and self-expression. Dance for Parkinson’s at HRC offers many physical benefits throughout the session such as, support for movement initiation, increased range of movement, flexibility, and coordination.
The group also provides emotional support, cognitive engagement, and an opportunity for meaningful social interaction. Helping residents feel more deeply connected to others is one of the greatest benefits of a dance/movement therapy group. People who are unable to create or maintain relationships independently are at risk of isolation and depression, and the dance/movement therapy group provides the support needed for interpersonal connection with others. The "Dance for Parkinson’s at HRC" group allows for residents to discover and use their strengths!
Tell us about a time when you knew that you made a positive difference in the life of a resident.
In addition to leading group sessions, I provide individual therapy to residents who are unable to engage in group services due to various challenges. There is a resident who was isolating herself and refusing to attend any activities or groups. We began our work together in individual sessions. After building a trusting relationship, this resident agreed to join the group session. Through the group, she is able to connect with other residents and create relationships. This resident currently attends the group every week and is therefore at a lower risk of isolation and depression.
What do seniors tell you they like about the dance/movement therapy groups?
Movement often brings memories forward, and group members enjoy reminiscing and sharing a part of their life story with others. At the end of each group, I invite the members to share how the session affected them. I often hear comments like, “It made me think,” and “I moved every part of my body!” Without fail, someone comments on the feeling of “togetherness” or “relaxation.” Since dance/movement therapy engages the mind, body, and the social-emotional self, it is not uncommon for a group member to say, “I feel more alive!”