Alyssa Coghlin
MA Social Work
BLUE Fellow
|
Winter
2020
Creating workshops to ground social work language in embodied practices
BLUE Fellow
Winter
2020

Background

I'm a recent Masters of Social Work graduate interested in exploring and emphasizing the connections between (psycho)therapeutic practices, philosophy, feminist/cultural studies, neuropsychology, biology/physiology, and improvisational dance and movement art forms. I'm curious how the language/terminology we use as social workers and helping professionals could be redefined and expanded through gestures and movement rather than abstract written/verbal definitions and assumptions. We speak about therapeutic and emotional processes, but how do we digest the ideas? For example, what really is empathy and how (and if) is it useful as a practice? What space might it occupy between active and passive, as a liminal, affective state? When is it misguided? Might a neurophysiological and even enzymatic, biological understanding of such emotional encounters provide insight into the ways in which we might 'metabolize' these experiences? Is there an 'optimal pH' for transformational empathy?  In what ways would a shift towards embodied, empathetic and artistic/improvisational practices—attuning to our porosity, transference, and sense of self/body—minimize experiences of vicarious trauma and reroute outcomes of moral exhaustion? (Would this include structural and environmental shifts as well?) In asking these questions, I intend to create new practices/workshops founded on my findings as a part of my B21 project!

Tides Between Bodies: empathy, (ex)change and trusting the moving process

My exploration of the empathetic interplay within therapeutic relationships was paved by gathering and wandering; a journey of mapping the connections, intimacies, intricacies and images of inter and intra-actions. I experimented with gesture and movement practices to understand the wholistic complexities of empathy, and I found myself on a wildly tangential and intricately intertwined exploration of my own self in a moving process.

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