“Working on the vocal instrument does not only nurture the sonorous power of the acoustic voice, it releases the soulful

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power of our psychological voice and increases the sound of our presence in the world. Having a voice means having an

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impact and influence. Our voice is the means by which we make ourselves known and ensure that we are heard”

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                                                                                                                    Paul Newham

 

About Voice Movement Therapy


 

The Foundation

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Voice Movement Therapy (VMT) is an expressive arts therapy initially conceived of and developed in the early 1990s by Englishman Paul Newham. Voice Movement Therapy is based primarily on the pioneering work of:

Singing Teacher:

Alfred Wolfsohn

Theatre Practitioners:

Roy Hart

Peter Brook

Jerzy Grotowski

Psychology:

Carl G. Jung

Wilhelm Reich 

Alexander Lowen

Otolaryngology (ENT)

Paul, J. Moses

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Subsequently Voice Movement Therapy has been further developed by Anne Brownell (taught and mentored by Dance Therapist pioneer Norma G. Canner and Penny Lewis) Christine Isherwood, Melanie Harrold and William Freeman. Other registered VMT practitioners also continue to develop and extend the practice through research and practical application. 

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Wolfshon urged:

“Know Thyself, descend into the depths and understand the motives behind all your actions. Free yourself from the psychological inhibitions that are imposed on expression.” 

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Many practitioners in the fields of psychotherapy, counselling, theatre and performance, well-being and life and executive coaching (and others) urge clients to express themselves more fully. Recognising that anything that limits your voice restricts your sense of self and your expression of self, Voice Movement Therapy offers clients a structure, specific techniques, a process and container to successfully find, explore and continue to develop full self-expression. 

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Uniquely, Voice Movement Therapy champions the voice and fosters the development and expansion of the acoustic voice as well as the metaphorical voice while integrating and expanding the body’s movement repertoire and incorporating personal images and archetypes.         

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Lowen writes:

“If one wants to change character (and Anne Brownell adds here ‘change restrictive habits of body, mind AND voice’) it is not enough to talk about feelings. They must be experienced and expressed. The body must be freed from its chronic tensions and constrictions if the person is to be freed from the fate they represent” 

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This is at the centre of Voice Movement Therapy; how can we work and play with feelings in new and expanding ways, how can we engage and create with our material rather than simply talk about it, how can we support clients in finding the courage to truthfully and authentically express themselves. 

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The modality offers clients a safe and creative space in which to embody, experience, actively explore and full express all that they feel so that the things (including vocal and movement habits) that restrict and limit our expression of self can be understood and shifted. Engaging in Voice Movement Therapy leads to a liberated voice, a free body, and to an empowered sense of self.   It is a way to Know Thyself. 

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Newham writes that “if the hurt self is encouraged to discharge itself continually without progression to an artistic mode of expression, the process of catharsis will serve only to feed the very pain that it seeks to heal.” Through its dynamic integration of song, movement and dance, drawing, writing, images and symbols Voice Movement Therapy encourages us to create with our experiences of being human and through so doing convert the shadows and the pain into something more positive and beautiful…

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… Wolfsohn and Braggins (pupil of Wolfsohn) speak of

“the beauty of the dared expression” .

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The Primary Tools and Techniques

Voice Movement Therapy makes use of a number of tools and techniques which are designed to develop, in an embodied way, both eh acoustic and metaphorical voice.  Below is a brief description of these:

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The Vocal Tube

We work with the idea of a vocal tube which begins at the mouth and ends at the base of the torso. During the process we work towards becoming aware of and connecting with this inner space and then work towards being able to lengthen and dilate the tube. We introduce the idea of a Flute (small and narrow), a Clarinet (medium width and length), and Saxophone (a large and long) space within the body with which to produce sound. In working with these ideas we are able to develop a malleable vocal tube and thus we can change the quality of sound or Timbre. Exploring the vocal tube also facilitates a deeper connection with the body.

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The Ten Components

There are 10 components that make up vocal sound: Pitch, Pitch Fluctuation, Timbre (harmonic resonance), Register, Disruption, Free Air, Glottal Engagement, Violin, Volume, and Articulation.    Everyone’s voice is made up of more or less of these 10 components and, to a large degree, this is what makes your voice sound unique. Within these components and their sounds we find the expression of an infinite number of emotions. In order to expand vocal range we identify which components can be developed and explored. Emotion is held in sound and in expanding into the various components we encounter what is held there for the client. In order to expand into the component one must explore and embrace the feelings, images, movement, memories and or fantasies that are held in that sound.  There are no bad sounds and the 10 components gives us a non-judgemental language to talk about and describe the vast palette of sounds that we can make.

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The Sphere

Our self does not end at our skin. We have a sense of occupying a space around our bodies. For some this space is very small for others it may be big. Its an awareness we have when someone is walking behind us or if someone comes too close. In Voice Movement Therapy we explore this space and our relationship to it. Through this we find that the various parts of our self are held with in this space. When you move around this Spherical space you notice that your voice changes and so does your sense of self. Further into the process images and memories may arise. In essence, The VMT Sphere work is an invaluable tool for self-exploration and for exploring boundaries, a sense of being held, and our relationships with others. It is also most valuable when working with ideas of claiming space in relationships and the world and indispensable in exploring anxiety and depression. Each client experiences their Sphere in a different way and the process always offers deepening awareness and enlightened knowledge.     

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The Voice Movement Therapy Cycles

These could be described as vocalised movement sequences. There are five of them; the Postural Cycle, the Instinctual Postural Cycle, the Personal Developmental Cycle, the Spiritual Cycle, and the Singing Body Cycle.  These cycles are used for various outcomes and explorations of the psyche. Essentially they facilitate a deep level of integration between voice, body and psyche. They ground and centre the client and nurture profound sense of self-confidence. They can also be used as a meditation and as a vocal and body warmup and are invaluable in developing vocal tube malleability. 

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Archetypes and Subpersonalities 

We are not one-dimensional characters, we play a number of roles in our lives; we tap into different aspects of ourself when we are in different contexts. Voice Movement Therapy engages with these archetypes and sub personalities unpacking them and their motives, fears, desires and so on. We create a clear image of them and find out what it is they need to say and express. We find their voices and allow for these parts of our self to find full expression and be heard. In this area of the Voice Movement Therapy work we create a safe space for the shadows and silenced parts of ourself to be expressed. In so doing we expand our sense of self, learn to embrace our whole self, reclaim our voice from having been silenced. Here we find untapped levels of healing, creativity, confidence and empowerment. Incorporating image and symbols and vocally and physically exploring and expanding these we find aspects of self, voice, movement, liberation and freedom that are not otherwise available to us in the everyday world.  

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Song as Container 

When we speak of ‘song’ in Voice Movement Therapy we use the term in a non-judgemental and inclusive way. There are no bad sounds, every sound is just as valuable in expressing an emotion or where you are at in that moment. We are not concerned with hitting the notes but rather focus on reclaiming the right to sing and to use our voices to sing our own songs. When we sing the body and psyche respond differently. The resonance and the engagement of the whole body to create sung sound opens us up and elevates our experience of Self and what it is, and means, to be alive and to have a voice. Spoken words cannot do this. Importantly, in creating songs we provide ourselves with a robust container for our emotions and experiences. In this way we can engage with these difficult aspects of the human condition and we can also put them aside so that we can continue with our every day lives. Then, we can revisit and revise the song and so the process progresses in a safe and contained way. Voice Movement Therapy champions the voice and it is through song that deep healing and transformation takes place.

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If you would like an indepth  introduction to VMT and how it weaves the work of Wolfsohn, Hart, Brook, Grotowski, Jung, Reich, Lowen and Moses and a full explanation of the various tools and techniques we use, please download my thesis from this location

Chapter 2 pages 26 – 81    

http://www.repository.up.ac.za/handle/2263/60366

 

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Voice Movement Therapy pioneer Anne Brownell (2001) writes that

the foundation of Voice Movement Therapy is 

 

“... not the spoken word, its cognitive content or articulation, but the affective aspects of vocal expression and combines knowledge of acoustics and the anatomy and physiology of the voice with movement, enactment and imagery that it integrates with psychotherapeutic principals to create a specific vocal modality for therapeutic work.”

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How We’ll Work


 

Who Would Benefit


  

In the case of individual sessions process begins with an assessment session. This session lasts about 1.5 hrs. During this time we establish where you are with your voice and what your needs and expectations are. I also gain a better understanding of your history and how you have come to where you are. From here we map a pathway for your process.  

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One-on-one sessions last a therapeutic hour (50mins) and it is recommended that you come weekly. However, since each client is unique I sometimes suggest longer sessions or more frequent sessions. Children’s individual session last 30 mins. These are sometimes extended if I am working with the child and the parent together.   

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Although you will feel things shifting from your first session, I recommend that you come for at least 10 sessions to let the work develop and settle and to get the real benefits of the process. Clients who seek to explore more deeply or expansively often continue working with me for a number of years.  

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Ideally sessions will take place in a studio setting and both you and I will engage physically and vocally with that which presents itself. When circumstance demands we may work via Skype (or similar) or we may decide that you would benefit from working one-on-one with me for a few full days, or, we may invite a significant person in your life to join us or even create and share a performance or sacred rite of passage. There are many many ways of making progress; I do my best to remain open and to accommodate my clients in order to facilitate their process in whatever way I can. 

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In the case of weekly open classes, workshops, intensives and retreats there is no assessment session. However, you may be asked to fill in a questionnaire or we may have a telephonic conversation so that I can understand your expectations.  

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Although the ways of working vary, Voice Movement Therapy is shared with clients of all ages. My youngest client was 2yrs and I have worked with children, teens, young adults, adults and the elderly too.  I work with people (men and women) who seek psychological healing, self-cultivation and creative development. I work with people who have suffered trauma an have realised that it has effected their voice. I work with those who are challenged with language and developmental delays, neurological and speech impediments and people who find connecting with others difficult.  

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I work with singers, actors, and dancers and with non-performers who are called upon to present, speak or ‘perform’ in front of others. I help people who desire a wider and more dynamic voice and those who wish to develop in self-confidence and esteem.  With teens and young adults who desire to be more assertive and confident. I help those who are trying to claim their place and voice in the world and in relationships.

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I work with people who want to have a better relationship with their bodies.  I work with couples and with parents and children who seek a stronger relationship. I work with pregnant mothers who want to connect through voice with their unborn child. I work with people who are going through life transitions and have realised that their sense of self or identity is changing.

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I work with lawyers and judges, psychologists, psychiatrists and councillors,  teachers and parents, entrepreneurs and with executives, sales teams and HR managers.  

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Globally Voice Movement therapy has been used in many diverse social and cultural settings: in schools, hospitals and psychiatric and drug rehabilitation centres, in theatres, universities and prisons, with refugees and in conflict situations, in businesses and in governmental and non-governmental organisations.     

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Voice Movement Therapy is a modality that is in someway beneficial to everyone since we all have a fundamental desire to express ourselves and to be heard.