Dance/movement therapy. One of the leading women in this space is Orit Krug. She has built a prominent platform based on her ability to help individuals and couples heal from past traumas through dance and other forms of movement. Her holistic methods aim to strengthen relationships with the self and others for love beyond self-sabotage. Intrigued? Find out more in this interview with CEO Orit Krug.
Disclosure: This sponsored interview focuses on how one woman uses dance/movement therapy to promote healing in those carrying past traumas, improving relationships, deepening love, and positively impacting countless lives.
Interview with Orit Krug
Award-winning Orit Krug is a board-certified Dance/Movement Therapist (BC-DMT) and Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT-NY). Seven powerful words spread across her website’s homepage:
You deserve the love you deeply desire.
Yes! The sad reality is that many people feel unworthy of receiving love, often because of unresolved traumas. Orit Krug is making it her life’s work to help individuals and couples heal from traumas, recognizing that movement is a powerful vehicle to do so. This paves the way to stronger relationships through deeper self-love. Here is our conversation.
Thank you for being here, Orit. Let’s start by talking about the Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) sessions. I’m curious what a session looks like.
There are phases to the process that make Dance/Movement Therapy an incredibly powerful and effective modality to heal trauma; connecting to the body in a safe and gentle way is the most important first step. That’s because trauma often makes us dissociate and disconnect from our bodies to protect us from the intense pain that we experienced during trauma. This is a common coping mechanism that the nervous system automatically carries out before we can even think about how we want to respond to a situation.
When I begin to move with my clients in session, it inevitably stirs up old memories stored in the non-verbal part of their brains. These memories and emotions come up very quickly because I guide them to move their body in a new and unplanned way, in a way that may have been impossible for clients to reach, even through years of talk therapy or by doing planned movements like yoga.
As soon as I see my clients accessing old trauma, I can see it in their bodies. I see their micro-movements and micro-body signals that indicate they are about to go into a fear response, much like they do in their real world. That’s a crucial moment in the process. Instead of them reacting to that fear through repeating patterns of repressing or numbing the fear, I help them stay regulated in their nervous systems and connected to their bodies as we move together.
When my clients have repeated experiences of moving through their fear while staying present in their own bodies and the therapeutic relationship with me, it allows them to regulate through conflict in relationships in their outside world without overreacting or sabotaging. Because we do it in session together first, it’s much easier to carry that new behavior into their real world, which eliminates that common struggle of talking about what they want to do differently but not actually seeing the change happen.
What is the goal of this type of therapy?
It’s crucial to use intentional movement to break old patterns that stem from trauma because movement is the vehicle for which we express ourselves and communicate in relationships. In my couples therapy work, we don’t do that much talking, which is all left-brain action. I guide them to communicate non-verbally through movement.
For example, in one couple’s session, I had the partners explore physically moving further away and closer together. For both partners, in their day-to-day life, it felt detrimental when they wanted time and space away from each other. They felt guilty for wanting more independence, so they abandoned their own needs to try to match each other. This led to deep unfulfillment within themselves and hopelessness about the relationship as a whole. But when they moved further away from each other in the safety of our session, they realized it wasn’t detrimental at all. My client said,
“Looking back, our conflicts weren’t really disasters. It was us looking through a screen colored by past trauma. Once we healed the way we were physically reacting to each other, it changed everything for us in a way that nothing else ever had.”
Because this couple had physical experiences of moving away from each other and realizing it wasn’t as horrible as they imagined, it gave them the embodied experience that it was safe to be more independent. Plus, we explored different ways they could choose to come back together. They especially loved slowly walking back toward each other and brushing up against each other’s shoulders.
Even six months after they finished the program, they told me they still do this particular movement which makes them laugh and feel more playful together. Plus, it’s really empowering to feel in command of your body and choose how you want to connect to your partner instead of being on autopilot and going through the same old motions that don’t spark excitement anymore.
Of course, this process looks different for every couple because each person brings different traumas and fears to the relationship. The couple I just mentioned clearly brought in some trauma and belief that independence in a relationship meant abandonment and failure. They had to learn a new way, and the years of couples therapy and conflict resolution exercises didn’t quite hit the mark in the way they needed.
I love how you nurtured their independence and gave them the tools to relate more effectively. Can you tell us a bit more about DMT for strengthening romantic relationships, as opposed to more traditional therapies?
Traditional talk therapy can be helpful and effective, but for people who’ve experienced trauma, which is at least 50-60% of the population, Dance Therapy is often more effective. Through a specialized movement process to heal trauma, Dance Therapy can access trauma memories stored inside the non-verbal brain, including the amygdala and hippocampus. It can rewire the nervous system by creating new neural pathways and changing stuck behaviors.
Brain mapping research has shown that the left hemisphere of our brain – the part that’s in charge of verbal language and has the ability to make logical sense of any situation – tends to be the less dominant hemisphere when trauma occurs. The left hemisphere has been shown to “shut down” or “go offline” during a traumatic event, which is why talk therapy is often limited in helping people resolve their trauma, even through cognitive awareness, mindfulness, and “positive thinking.”
It’s crucial that we move the body for optimal healing and to break old relationship patterns because movement is the vehicle for which we express ourselves and communicate to others. I’m working with a couple now who tried years of traditional talk couples counseling in the past, and unfortunately, it didn’t work for them. When I started working with them, it was obvious why they didn’t make progress in talk therapy.
In our early sessions, they often circled around an argument and quickly got stuck in a loop of, “You said this,” and “No, you said that,” no matter how nicely they tried to communicate. In these moments, I gently interjected and redirected them to connect to their bodies through movement instead.
In our last session together, I noticed that during their argument, one of the partners looked very stiff and tense. I asked him, “What do you feel in your body right now?” It was hard for him to connect to what he was feeling at first, but with my guidance, he noticed he was feeling a lot of tension. When I asked him to allow his body to move with this tension, he began to cry. Then, he shared with his wife that he felt sad and hopeless about the issue they were arguing about. All of a sudden, she softened up, too, and she had more compassion for him. She was more willing to touch him and allow him to touch her.
This was a transformative moment for them because he usually suppresses and hides his emotions, which makes her resentful and feel like he doesn’t care, which has created a huge wall between them and their ability to be sexually intimate. Without connecting to the body and moving with these emotions together, I don’t believe they would’ve had this incredible breakthrough that has really shifted their relationship.
An incredible breakthrough. That leads to my next question. If trauma remains unresolved, how can it hurt romantic relationships?
Trauma makes us over-reactive and hypersensitive to threats of danger that aren’t often truly present. It’s like having an alarm system for your home that’s overly sensitive, even when there’s someone walking 500 feet outside your house. The vibrations of those footsteps set off the alarm, alert the police, and make a huge deal out of something that was never actually dangerous because that person walking by never intended to break into your home.
This is how the nervous system becomes hardwired after trauma. Perhaps you hear your partner sighing loudly in frustration, or they forget to pick up your favorite snack from the supermarket. All of a sudden, your inner alarm system goes into Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Shutdown response, and you explode on your partner. Or you shut them out for days for no rational reason.
These feelings and reactions feel so big in the moment, but for so many of my clients, once they heal the old trauma, they realize they were blown way out of proportion because the threat felt so real to their survival system.
One couple who I recently worked with was ready to get divorced by the time they signed up to work with me. Everything – and I mean all the tiniest things – would become big fights. They would think and say to each other, “What are we doing? We’re never gonna make it.” If she asked him to take out the trash, he would get triggered by his childhood trauma of “never doing anything good enough.” He would either get defensive or put it off, which then triggered her old trauma of “Nobody cares about my needs.”
This is exactly the type of cycle that often derails a relationship because these patterns keep firing alarm signals with every little word and interaction. This couple had even tried years of couples counseling and conflict resolution coaching, but it didn’t work for them because it didn’t change how their nervous systems were wired and reacting impulsively to each other. Finally, through my couples program, they broke through their unhealthy cycles and ignited a deeper, lasting love for each other.
Healing from trauma is deeply personal. Orit, how do you encourage someone to open up to you in a session?
I meet each client at their pace and help them gently expand their comfort from that starting place. For instance, many new clients are uncomfortable with moving their bodies in this unique way. I have a specialized process where I help them feel safe to open up through movement. I think the word “dance” in dance therapy throws a lot of people off. You don’t have to dance, and a lot of times in a session, it doesn’t even look like we’re dancing.
One of my clients released her last bit of grief she was holding in her body, by simply accepting my invitation to sit down on the floor together. This client had a tendency to talk a lot as a defense mechanism to being in her body. In one session, I asked her to tune into her body without saying any words and invited her to come down to the floor.
She immediately started crying because this allowed her to surrender her weight to the ground, let go, be in her body, and finally feel the grief she’s been avoiding by being so much in her head. This was transformational for her relationship because her main issue was that whenever it was time for sexual intimacy with her husband, she would chatter and essentially distract herself and her partner from the experience.
After releasing that grief and fear of being in her body, she found safety and pleasure in her own body, and they were able to have a fulfilling sex life again. Of course, this was part of a longer 6-month process, but that one moment when we didn’t move that much was just as crucial as the many other moments we did.
So powerful. What is the science behind Dance/Movement Therapy?
More than ever, research is showing how trauma is stored in the non-verbal parts of the brain and body, including the amygdala and hippocampus, and not just the cognitive brain or prefrontal cortex. This outdated research, which many people still believe today, states that we can talk through trauma and access old memories through words and traditional talk therapy.
However, new research is showing us that we need to have an embodied, somatic approach in order to access and release the full spectrum of memories. That is because when we experience trauma, those memories get stored inside the non-verbal brain as well as the nervous system.
In sum, research on how trauma impacts the brain (which is executed through brain imaging and mapping) shows us that the higher-functioning part of our brain, the one that dominates logic and verbal language, “goes offline” during chronic stress or traumatic events. That is why talk therapy is often limited in helping people resolve their trauma, even through cognitive awareness, mindfulness, or positive thinking.
The examples of sessions you’ve told us about show how important tapping into the non-verbal side is. Are your sessions in-person only or virtual as well?
My year-round sessions are virtual, but I also host in-person retreats and workshops for those who want a live, immersive experience in a shorter amount of time.
I work with individuals and couples who are either monogamous or ethically non-monogamous. My client base has experienced some type of psychological trauma in the past that is preventing them from enjoying and keeping close relationships.
Often, they are sabotaging their relationships due to impulsive behavior and a foundational belief that they are not truly worthy of love. I typically work with people between 25 and 60 years old and inclusive of all genders, including those who do not identify with any gender.
What inspired you to get into this type of life work?
I experienced many years of childhood trauma, which caused me to act on my belief that I was damaged goods and unworthy of love. I had a strong track record of sabotaging all of my romantic relationships. Once I healed my past trauma via Dance/Movement Therapy, I was able to finally be a healthy partner and enjoy emotional and sexual intimacy.
I’ve been with my husband for 10 years now, and we are also polyamorous, which means that we also date people outside of our marriage. It’s wild to think about how I went from having highly dysfunctional relationships to experiencing incredibly satisfying love with multiple people at the same time. My passion and ambition are to help people have all the love they desire and deserve, too.
I have my Master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. I am a Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist (BC-DMT) and a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT), which I earned after 2,500+ supervised hours and testing.
Connect further with Orit Krug online
To learn more about change through movement, go to Orit Krug’s self-titled website. Here you will find more about Orit, her services, and client stories.
Watch Orit Krug’s guided meditation videos on Insight Timer for free. Two examples are “Forgiving Your Partner” and “Making Peace with Your Thoughts.”
Is DMT new to you? What surprised you the most about this interview? Let’s talk in the comments section below!
Top photo: Meet Orit Krug. Photo used with Orit’s permission.