What is Dance/Movement Psychotherapy?
Dance/movement therapy is a New York State licensed form of treatment recognized as a practice within Creative Arts Therapy (LCAT). Dance/movement therapy is an experiential form of psychotherapy that utilizes nonverbal movement observation, dance, music, play, multi-sensory and relaxation/meditative techniques for the assessment and intervention for all ages.
Dance/movement therapists have at least a Masters level degree training and are required to have 2 years of supervised training before they are able to conduct a private practice. The national dance/movement therapy association provides board certification to their senior dance/movement therapists (BC-DMT). In New York State all trained dance/movement therapists must now also have the credential of Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT). More information about training and dance/movement therapy are available at the national website www.adta.org.
Parent-Infant / Parent-Child Psychotherapy
This treatment focuses on nurturing this primary relationship, by encouraging observation and interaction through both verbal and nonverbal expressive modes of communication. With support from current infancy research, these sessions highlight the dynamic interplay between the child's unique style, the parent's unique style and environmental influences.
The dance/movement psychotherapy session enables the child to actively participate through their own evolving nonverbal and verbal communicative system. The initial goal is to broaden the child's social and communicative base by first helping the child experience their movements as communications, enabling exchange and interaction with others. Embedded in this process are sensory integration activities which enable the child to experience and learn about regulating and organizing their sensory system. The dance/movement therapist and parent enter into a physical dialog with the child to develop a socially and emotionally supportive relationship as a way to gain insight into how the infant may be experiencing their world. Special attention is paid to those aspects of the experience that may be causing difficulties for the child.
The role of the dance/movement therapist is to share, support, and decode the child's expressions through this exploration. During the decoding process, verbalizations become important also. This brings cognitive awareness to the child's nonverbal expressions, and supports the acquisition of language as a communicative tool that can effectively integrate verbal and nonverbal expressions.
Enabling the young child to actively participate in the environment in a communicative way through nonverbal, movement expression enhances not only social/emotional development but motor, cognitive and verbal development as well. Encouraging a positive social interaction can be the primary motivating force for achievement on all other levels of development. Encouragement and motivation through positive and loving social experiences is the key to successful growth supporting children to reach their potential. In this way dance/movement therapy fosters the integration of all aspects of a child's development.
- Parent-Infant / Parent-Child
- Birth Trauma
- Relationship and Attachment Issues
Developmental Difficulties & Trauma
Dance/movement psychotherapy is an effective treatment modality for the observation, assessment and treatment of infants and children with developmental difficulties and delays in all areas; children considered "at risk" due to environmental circumstances; children who have experienced early trauma through birth or illness; as well as those children who are having difficulties, but no specific diagnoses capture the child completely.
My approach in working with such populations is to regard the child's nonverbal behaviors as a form of communication portraying their experiences and sense of self. Specifically, I respond to the child's particular movement expressions as he or she interacts within the surrounding spatial environment. It is this interaction between self and spatial environment, observable in these personal characteristic movement patterns, which display how the child is relating, adapting and responding to their environment. In this way the child becomes the catalyst of the therapeutic intervention.
From such observations and interactions I am able to derive an understanding of the "whole child." This enables me to be opened to all aspects of the child's development and experience – motoric, sensorial, verbal/communicative, emotional, cognitive – which may influence how they perceives and responds to their surroundings. My initial considerations when observing a child are:
- How does relating and moving in that child's unique way color their experience?
- What does it feel like to experience the world through that child's particular expressive movement repertoire?
- How can a therapeutic environment be structured to enable the child to experience their way of relating and functioning as a communicative tool, while simultaneously enabling the child through that experience to explore new ways of interacting with their environment?
Based on these questions the intervention strategy focuses on how the individual child is using their own unique internal structures to cope, adapt and respond to the environment. In the therapeutic setting the child's personal nonverbal movement style directs the movement interaction dialog between the child and the therapist. The "dance" in the dance/movement psychotherapy process begins as these movement elements unfold throughout the child's spontaneous choreography. These may involve actual dance actions as well as creative play and storytelling activities. The salient elements of each weekly dance play become reconstructed in the new dance play the next week under the child's direction.
In this way this environment enables the child to take us on their own personal journey sharing with us how they have experienced the world. Through this process my role as therapist is to uncover and integrate the child's felt-sense memories, concerns and action-based representations of their experiences by translating them into multilevel expressible understandings for the child. This therapeutic environment acts as a secure container for the child's expressions – a "holding" framework from which the child can experience a response to their movement language. A sense of wholeness and completion is felt by the child as their symbolic expressions are heard.
As the child receives recognition for their efforts and expressions, then they become receptive to engage in expanded movement exchanges. This mutual sharing of experiences provides a safe environment to explore alternative communicative methods while simultaneously encouraging growth in physical, emotional, and cognitive development.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Medical Illness
- Developmental Delays
- Sensory Process Disorder (SPD)
- Speech and Communication Delays
- Learning Disabilities
- Non-verbal Learning Disabilites
- Social Interactive Issues
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD)
Psychotherapy/Stress Reduction/Chronic Pain Conditions
Adults come to dance/movement psychotherapy with a wide range of concerns. Many people are interested in working with a more experiential psychotherapy. In this process both verbal and nonverbal processes are used to examine the link between an individual's emotional and physical self. Nonverbal activities may include using dance, movement, music, breath, relaxation, and the awareness of nonverbal expressions, as a way to uncover and examine their metaphoric significance in an individual's life experience.
This is an especially useful approach for stress reduction, and stress related physical issues such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and rehabilitation from injury. In this context the adult gains awareness about how their pain literally and metaphorically influences their life.
First a movement analysis is performed to determine the individual's movement range, coordination and mobility. Through activities that focus on proper alignment, muscular tension-release & relaxation, increased body awareness is developed.
Working from the concept that the mind, emotions and body form a continuum, each impacting the other, the individual is then guided to explore conscious and unconscious images, metaphors, and experiences they associate with their pain and emotional stress. These images are then explored through dance, movement, body awareness activities, music and verbal discussion to bring further insight to their personal meaning.
Through this process the individual has new awareness of their pain/stress, gaining information about the role their pain is playing in their total functioning. From this knowledge the individual develops tools to feel more in control of the pain/stress in their daily life. This enables the individual to become more comfortable in their body, positively affecting their body image, emotional lives, and physical functioning. As they expand their movement repertoire, they will develop skill in managing and reducing their pain and stress.
Breast Cancer Survivors
Grief & Mourning
End of Life Care