Ritual Rhythm and Relaxation in Creative Mothers Group


Relaxation, rhythm and ritual (the 3 R’s) was first identified by Penny Simpkin, a physical therapist, doula, author and childbirth educator who describes these qualities in relation natural childbirth. Birthing women benefit from relaxation while in labor, which engages the parasympathetic nervous system and diminishes sensations of pain while promoting a cognitive state of ‘surrender’. Rhythm is utilized in labor to facilitate structure.  It requires adjustment as the stages of labor progress in order to meet the demands of the system homeostasis as pain and related need for pain-tolerance increase. Finally, ritual, gives the mother a sense of meaning to the “mad” state that labor can produce. Rituals remind the deeper consciousness that there is meaning to the process of birth.

The application the 3 R’s to a psychotherapy group for mothers is appropriate because mothers of young children are typically body-centered. The day-to-day work of caring for their infant or young child has kept them in contact with bodily demands. Yet, these demands are typically of the ‘other’, the small infant. Mothers in therapy can benefit from the safety provided by the 3R’s to begin exploring their own bodily needs in a compassionate manner. Here is my template for the 3R’s in this group:

We start with a sitting/ gentle movement meditation to calm and engage the group. This important first step engages the parasympathetic nervous system through relaxation. Following relaxation, a brief check-in provides a transition for entering the group experience.  This ritual can bring the group together through attunement.  The circle feels sacred, and the elements of structure and safety provide additional ritualistic-feel to the souls. Once centering and empathic attunement is established, I  provide an experiential focus from a theme that emerges from the group’s needs and interests. Then, I assist with its expression by use of creative imagery and developmental movement patterns, mirroring and witnessing. With sensitive leadership, the group process provides opportunities to extend the improvisation, promoting an indulging attitude toward play.  This extension may involve another form of creative expression, such as art or journaling so that the women in circle begin to come back to their own inner experiences of the experiential and process individually.  When it is time to close the experiential and inward process, we hold a reflection circle.  This closure provides ample opportunities for the group members to share and witness for one another, building group cohesion and deepening the group process.

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Illysa Foster

Illysa is a psychotherapist, midwife, educator, dancer and author. She currently provides psychotherapy in Austin and San Marcos, Texas to individuals, groups, couples and mother-baby dyads. Also a lecturer at Texas State University, Illysa helps students prepare to provide services for children and families. Licensed as a psychological associate under the supervision of Dr. Joellen Peters, Illysa offers somatic, depth and creative arts therapies to integrate the mind/body and soul.

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