Creative Arts Therapies Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Art in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling (MA)


Creative Arts Therapies

First Advisor

Susan Imus

Second Advisor

Laura Downey

Third Advisor

Laura Allen


dance movement therapy, countertransference, stress response, freeze response


This heuristic research study explored how somatic countertransference in my own body, as a clinician, is related to my freeze response when working with clients in a behavioral health hospital. Primary questions that led the research, included: what does somatic countertransference feel like in my own body as a clinician, what happens in my body during a stress response of freezing, and, how can I modulate through my stress response to become regulated in session? These curiosities led to my ultimate research question, how can I, as an emerging dance/movement therapist, modulate through my freeze response while experiencing somatic countertransference with patients in hospital programs for mental health? Data were collected in the form of journal entries, watercolor paintings, and embodied writing and were analyzed, with the aid of a research collaborator, through Moustakas’ approach to heuristic research. Findings indicated how the freeze response and somatic countertransference are connected in my body through feelings of anxiety and fear. Also, I explored the use of body based coping techniques to assist in modulating through my freeze response in order to be fully present with the group. Lastly, I discovered how to be connected physically, mentally, and emotionally in my body during dance/movement therapy group facilitation. I found an increased understanding of my own somatic countertransference symptoms. The process I created for myself to modulate out of a freeze response may assist other novice dance/movement therapists understand how to regulate their bodies in a group session, creating a fuller experience for all parties involved in the group process. 65 pages.