Dance/movement therapy, a creative arts therapy, is rooted in the expressive nature of dance itself.
Dance is the most fundamental of the arts, involving a direct expression and experience of oneself through the body. It is a basic form of authentic communication, and as such it is an especially effective medium for therapy. Based in the belief that the body, the mind and the spirit are interconnected, dance/movement therapy is defined by the American Dance Therapy Association as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process that furthers the emotional, cognitive, social and physical integration of the individual.”
WHAT DO DANCE/MOVEMENT THERAPISTS DO?
Dance/movement therapists work with individuals of all ages, groups and families in a wide variety of settings. They focus on helping their clients improve self-esteem and body image, develop effective communication skills and relationships, expand their movement vocabulary, gain insight into patterns of behavior, as well as create new options for coping with problems. Movement is the primary medium dance/movement therapists use for observation, assessment, research, therapeutic interaction, and interventions. Dance/movement therapists work in settings that include psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, schools, nursing homes, drug treatment centers, counseling centers, medical facilities, crisis centers, and wellness and alternative health care centers. Dance/movement therapy can be a powerful tool for stress management and the prevention of physical and mental health problems. Dance/movement therapists integrate the dancer’s special knowledge of the body, movement, and expression with the skills of psychotherapy, counseling, and rehabilitation to help individuals with a wide array of treatment needs. Social, emotional, cognitive, and/or physical problems can be addressed through DMT via group and individual sessions in many different types of settings from hospitals and clinics to schools. The fact that dance/movement therapists are immersed in the language of the body, rather than focusing solely on the verbal, lends characteristics to their work that set it apart from other types of therapy.
A Brief History of Dance/movement Therapy
The roots of dance/movement therapy can be traced to the early 20th century and the work of DMT pioneer, Marian Chace. Chace was a modern dancer in Washington, D.C. who began teaching dance after ending her career with the Denishawn Dance Company in 1930. She noticed that some of her students were much more interested in the emotions they expressed in dancing than in the mechanics and technique of dance, and so she began to encourage this form of self-expression. Word spread of the dance students’ reported feelings of well-being after they mentally unburdened themselves through dance, and doctors became intrigued. They began to send their patients to Chace – many of whom were people with psychiatric illnesses. Later, Chace became part of the staff of St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Washington D.C. and studied at the Washington School of Psychiatry. While at St. Elizabeth’s, Chace’s methods began to attract others, and by the 1950’s, dance therapy became the subject of serious study at the facility.
DMT gained even greater legitimacy with the formation of the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) in 1966, with Marian Chace, fittingly, serving as the first president. Today, the ADTA works to promote the highest standards of education and practice in the field. It maintains a registry of dance/movement therapists, who must meet stringent standards of education and clinical practice. Additionally, the association has a code of ethics, and publishes research and scholarly work in the American Journal of Dance Therapy and through publications funded by the Marian Chace Memorial Fund. The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), started with 73 charter members and has expanded into 955 professional and 255 nonprofessional members in 2000, with international members in Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. In addition, there are currently national dance/movement therapy organizations in many international locals including Italy, Japan, Germany, and France.
WHERE AND HOW DO DANCE/MOVEMENT THERAPISTS BECOME TRAINED?
Professional training in DMT begins at the graduate level, and dance therapists usually have extensive dance experience and a liberal arts background, with some psychology coursework. The title “Dance Therapists Registered” (DTR) is granted to entry level dance/movement therapists who have a master’s degree which includes 700 hundred hours of supervised clinical internship. The advanced level of registry, “Academy of Dance Therapists Registered”, (ADTR) is awarded only after DTR’s have completed 3,640 hours of supervised clinical work in an agency, institution or special school, with additional supervision from an ADTR and approval from the associations’ credentials committee.
Currently, there are five approved DMT programs spread across the United States in colleges in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York, Illinois and Colorado. In addition, ADTA offers an alternative training option for those who have Master’s degrees in related fields, such as counseling psychology. It involves taking the required courses in dance/movement therapy, which are offered at additional training centers throughout the United States. Educational opportunities for alternate route are listed on the ADTA’s website www.adta.org
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE AMERICAN DANCE THERAPY ASSOCIATION?
Since its founding in l966, ADTA has worked to establish and maintain high standards of professional education and competence in the field. ADTA stimulates communication among dance/movement therapists and members of allied professions through publication of the ADTA Newsletter, the American Journal of Dance Therapy, monographs, bibliographies, and conference proceedings. ADTA holds an annual conference and supports formation of regional groups, conferences, seminars, workshops and meetings throughout the year.
Pioneering the Body-Mind Interface
For over fifty years, Dance/Movement Therapists have been pioneers in the in-depth understanding of how the body and mind interact in health and in illness, be it an illness of the mind which is embodied or an illness of the body that impacts on mental functioning and spirit. Whether the issue is the will to live, a search for meaning or motility, or the ability to feel love for life, for dance/movement therapists healing has always meant mobilizing resources from that place within where body and mind are one.
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American Dance Therapy Association – https://adta.org
National Coalition of Arts Therapies Associations – https://nccata.com
Levy, F. J., Fried, J. P., & Leventhal, F. (Eds.) (1995). Dance and other expressive arts therapies. London: Routledge.
Naess Lewin, J. L. (1998). Dance therapy notebook. Washington, DC: American Dance Therapy Association.
Sandel, S. L., Chaiklin, S., & Lohn, A. (Eds.) (1993). Foundations of dance/movement Therapy: The life and work of Marian Chace. Washington, DC: American Dance Therapy Association.
Last updated: April 2005