Dance movement therapy (also referred to as DMT or Dance Therapy) is the relational and therapeutic use of dance and movement to further the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and cultural* functioning of a person.
Dance movement therapy is based on the empirically-supported unity of body and mind. It recognizes that change and growth in one supports change and growth in the other.
Dance movement therapists combine the elements of dance, movement systems, creative processes, and psychological and scientific theories to address the specific needs of groups and individuals.
Dance movement therapists work in clinical, institutional, community and private settings, using clear therapeutic contracts, agreements and goals, often within a defined time frame. Verbally and non-verbally, they attune to client/s’ needs and provide the therapeutic relationship requisite for growth and change.
In Australasia, the DTAA recognizes only Professional and Provisional Professional level members as credentialled to deliver dance movement therapy.
*Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society (UNESCO, 1982).
Dance has been fundamental to human life and culture since the time of our earliest ancestors; a form of self-expression, communication and celebration of life and community. Indigenous peoples of Australasia have practiced dance as a healing art since their earliest histories. In the early-mid 20th century, the formal recognition of dance as a healing modality began. This recognition came with the development of more expressive and improvisational forms of dance popular at that time, as well as the acceptance of the integral relationship between mind and body. Dance movement therapy emerged as a profession in the US in the 1960s. It began in Australia in the 1970s, largely due to the leadership of European-born dancer and educator Hanny Exiner, and is now an established profession.
Dance movement therapists are drawn from backgrounds in dance, education or the health sciences including, for example, dance teaching, physiotherapy and psychology. Practitioners are required to undergo extensive dance movement therapy training together with supervised clinical practice. They may be employed specifically as dance movement therapists or integrate dance movement therapy within the broader context of their work.
Dance movement therapists
•appreciate the therapeutic value of aesthetic and artistic experiences of dance
•understand the interrelationship of the physical, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of human behaviour
•use their skills in movement observation and analysis to assess individuals, and develop and evaluate therapeutic programs
•recognise body movement as the basis of human interaction and communication
•are trained in counselling skills and group facilitation
•design and implement programs for diverse client groups.
The dance movement therapy profession in Australasia consists of an ever-growing number of practitioners working in clinical, educational and community settings with individuals or groups of all ages including:
•community health centres
•aged care facilities
How is DMT different from other dance practices?
Most people understand that dancing can be good for their health; it improves cardiovascular endurance, muscle tone, balance, and coordination. Dance can also boost a person’s mood, improve his or her body image, and provide an opportunity for fun that may lower overall stress and anxiety. While these elements are certainly beneficial, dance/movement therapy takes therapeutic dance to another level.
People in treatment with a professional dance movement therapist have the right to confidentiality and are provided with a safe space where they can express themselves. Dance movement therapists help people work on issues through the use of a “movement vocabulary” that is centered around physical and artistic expression instead of words.
In this context, movement becomes more than exercise—it is a language that can be used to communicate and explore conscious and unconscious feelings.
Dance movement therapy sessions often include observation, assessment, warm-ups, interventions, verbal processing, and warm-down phases. Sessions can be highly structured or non-directive and may be conducted individually or in groups. Although each registered dance movement therapist will have his or her own style, they have all completed a recognised training course and accumulated a minimum number of hours of practice and supervision.
Description provided by Dance Movement Therapy Association of Australasia
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