08 June 2009

What is a Dance Therapist?

Even before I became a Dance/Movement Therapist (also referred to as a Dance Therapist), people began asking me that question: What is a Dance Therapist? To some, it may appear so overtly obvious that it seems a silly question - to others the imaginings this title may conjure might be down-right scary. In actuality, I don't believe either of these sentiments are true... as it turns out, Dance/Movement Therapy is a very complex field and thankfully, due to high professional standards of practice, educational standards, clinical training and an encompassing Code of Ethics, patients may rest-assured that individuals with Credentialing from the American Dance Therapy Association are qualified to treat them. See my next post for more information!

Here are a few pointers about what dance therapy is:

  • Dance therapy is psychotherapeutic: it utilizes movement, dance, breath, body awareness and other movement forms (e.g. Thai Chi, Yoga) to address the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual needs of clients. The field has close ties with Professional Counseling Psychology, and many of us are dually certified/licensed in BOTH verbal counseling AND Dance/Movement Therapy.
  • Dance therapy is individualized: whether in group dance therapy OR individual dance therapy - clients will learn about their individual movement preferences, what parts of their own body are showing signs of energetic dysfunction, and will develop skills to change their behavior & thoughts (possible techniques may include: breathing techniques, postural shifts, movement sequences, physicalized affirmations) to improve their physical, emotional and spiritual integration.
  • Dance therapy is a creative process: although like any psychotherapy, dance therapy can be hard work, IT ALSO may provide GREAT JOY, CATHARTIC RELEASE, & BIOLOGICAL RELIEF (through the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters important to any recovery.)

A few words about what dance therapy is NOT:

  • Dance therapy is NOT therapy for dancers. While professional dancers are welcomed to participate in Dance Therapy groups, or individual psychotherapy - the field of Dance Therapy is open to EVERYONE, regardless of your dance/movement background. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY!
  • Dance therapy is NOT a "new age" therapy. While many clients find the dance therapy experience novel, it is important to note that dance therapists are NOT NEW to the field of psychotherapy, counseling or psychiatry. Dance Therapy is a respected modality in the field of Creative Arts Therapies and has a history spanning back 50 years +.
  • Dance therapy is NOT aerobics or exercise class (but some dance therapists may approach certain groups with exercise as a clinical goal, such as in a nursing care facility where residents get few opportunities for movement and physical activity.) While you may work up a sweat in dance therapy, the focus is on relating the body, mind & spirit.
  • Dance therapy is NOT Physical Therapy (though we do have things in common): if you have a serious medical condition or physical injury/impairment, a dance therapist may be able to coordinate services with your physician and physical therapist to help you deal with the Psycho-somatic (brain - body) elements of your physical needs, but dance therapy cannot replace these other important medical interventions.

If you or someone you know may be interested in learning more about Dance/Movement Therapy, I encourage you to visit the following link: http://www.adta.org/index.cfm to find more information from the American Dance Therapy Association, or contact me directly.


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