Nurturing Ourselves: Reflections from my Keynote Presentation.

I had the honor of being the keynote presenter for the annual conference of the New England chapter of the American Dance Therapy Association (NEADTA) this March (2015). Here I share some of my reflections on the importance of nurturing ourselves.

Nourishing ourselves.

Therapists give so much to out clients, our colleagues, our workplaces and our professions. It is crucial that we get the essential nourishment that we need in order to take care of ourselves and to be able to bring ourselves to our work.

We need basic nourishment as the foundation of our wellbeing: good food, moving our bodies, getting enough sleep. It is also important to generate creativity and fun. Playfulness helps balance the difficult work that we do and restores a sense of vitality. Leaning into and cultivating our relationships is a key element to feeling supported and connected.

Setting boundaries.

Boundaries serve to keep things “out”, but a vital role of boundaries is making space to hold and contain what we really want. When we say “YES” to what we love and what energizes us, and say “no” to just about everything else, we discover a sense of spaciousness and engagement that is otherwise lost.

Therapists are known for our empathy, which is a beautiful aspect of the work we do. However, I have been drawn to findings about how cultivating compassion rather than empathy may be more sustainable and therefore support the work we do more effectively. Here is  video by Mattieu Richard that is a great resource for learning more about this concept. I think this may have particular significance for therapists who work from a body-centered basis.

We often don’t realize that our body/brain systems have developed in a way that favors efficiency which means we have far less “energy” available to us than we’d like to think. Consequently we can zap it up quite quickly and end up running very low to empty. One solution for helping with energy regulation is to put ourselves on “autopilot” as much as possible.

If we automate our routines for the less essential tasks we have, such as schedules, paperwork , etc. we save our energy for the more important and creative tasks and then we can give more and better to those things. If we plan for the important self-care activities that nurture us, we do them! The Sweet Spot, How to Find your Groove at Home and Work by Christine Carter is a great resource on this subject.

Personal and professional development.

When we keep ourselves immersed in learning and developing our professional skills and identity, we stay absorbed in the work we do. We have a feeling of having something new that keeps us interested and we feel we have more to offer. We can do this on any scale: reading blogs, books, journals; attending conferences and seminars; engaging in supervision or consultation; being active in a professional organization; teaching or presenting; taking more extensive professional trainings.

For dance/movement therapists and other body-oriented therapists, cultivating our own sense of embodiment along with expanding our knowledge of the body and the body/mind connection is imperative. But all therapists can benefit from this, both for individual welfare and to bring to therapeutic practice.

Therapists work with deeply personal and emotional material. If we are to serve our clients with integrity, we must be willing to engage in our own healing and growth. Some of the ways we can do this are through our own therapy, other healing practices, spiritual activity, and meaningful relationships.



Read through the guidelines below and then spend as much or as little time as you’d exploring the ideas.

1. Pause and settle.

First, get comfortable. Take some nurturing inhales and relaxing exhales. Stretch, shake out your hands, sigh. Take a moment just to notice sitting or lying or moving and appreciate that you are taking some time to nurture yourself. Smile or relax your face.

2. Create a “basket” for yourself.

Hold your arms in front of you as though you are holding a basket. Allow yourself to trust your body to choose the size that feels right.

Close your eyes or take a soft gaze or image yourself looking into that basket.

Ask yourself, “What do I REALLY WANT MOST?” What will nurture me? How can I put in this basket only the things that will serve me?

Allow yourself to be surprised and be curious about what you discover.

Notice what it feels like in your body when answers appear. Perhaps you feel energized or relaxed. Maybe you feel this in a particular part of your body. You may have a sense of clarity or flow or calm. You might feel something entirely different, or you might not notice anything at all.

3. Further exploration.

Some ideas for taking this exercise farther:

Draw or paint what you discovered in your basket.

Make a collage of it with magazine pictures.

Journal or write poetry about it.

Share your discoveries with someone else.

Find a piece of music that captures your experience.

Dance to it.

The sky’s the limit, have fun, be creative.

I hope you will take some time in the upcoming days to savor what you have discovered and sink deeper into how you can nurture yourself in these areas.


I’d love to hear anything you’d like to share, so if you’d like, please get in touch.

© 2021 Annabelle Coote

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be considered as legal, ethical, clinical, treatment planning, treatment recommendations, or any other business or clinical practice advice related to your work as a therapist.


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