Archive for the ‘trauma’ Category

I could write an infinite number of blog posts with this very title and each one quite possibly could include video or movement description unlike any of the posts before it. That said, there is a video currently circulating the social media sphere that has beautiful footage of dance/movement therapy.

It is worth every moment of the seven minutes it takes to watch it and I have linked it below for your viewing convenience.

As a preface, I must remind you of some basic truths of dance/movement therapy:

Neither the dance/movement therapist nor the client knows ahead of time what will transpire in the impending session. Even within a structured format, the experience is unpredictable. Guided by the present moment, the process is unique to the persons involved, their needs and the treatment goals.

Dance/movement therapy is an improvised process – both 1:1 and in a group setting. It begins “where the client is at.” Ten dance/movement therapy sessions with the same person might start differently each time and may “look” different each time. Dance/movement therapists respond to the movement and words (yes, dance/movement therapy involves talking too!) that emerge in the PRESENT MOMENT. The present moment is beautiful, mysterious, surprising… It can be extremely powerful and it is worth every bit of attention it is given.

I must also underscore that dance/movement therapy is NOT a dance “class.” This is a distinction that is growing ever more important to convey as more and more people worldwide declare dance or Zumba®, for example, as their “therapy.” Dance is ABSOLUTELY therapeutic and inherently healing. But “dance/movement therapy” is a clinical practice, facilitated by trained mental health clinicians with masters or doctoral degrees. It is essential that this distinction be understood and observed. (Please see An Invitation to Those Making the World A Better Place Through Dance for further clarification on that distinction.)

by Corporación Dunna -alternativas

Below is wonderful footage of dance/movement therapy being introduced into cities in Colombia to counter the trauma of violence and conflict and to facilitate empathy and connection. The movement is interspersed with brief interviews with the facilitators and students learning the methods. (It is in Spanish but has English subtitles. Even so, movement is a universal language and the dancing speaks volumes regardless of your native language.)

So, as I declare “YES! This is what dance/movement therapy looks like!” I simultaneously ask that you remember that other dance/movement therapy sessions do NOT look like this. (In fact, if you’d like to compare and contrast two very different videos, please see my previous post to view dance/movement therapy with hospitalized children.)

As you watch this video, perhaps questions will arise for you:
What is happening?
How does that process evolve?
How is it not a “class”? It looks like a class…
(I intend to dedicate an entire post to answering this particular question so stay tuned…)

I would genuinely love to answer your questions. Please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section. If YOU have that question, somebody else likely does too. 🙂 Ask away.

by Corporación Dunna -alternativas

Dance/Movement Therapy as a tool for achieving peaceful coexistence and reconciliation in 5 vulnerable cities in Colombia


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Once a year, dance/movement therapists from around the world congregate at the American Dance Therapy Association’s Annual Conference, hosted each year in a different city in the United States. This year will mark the 47th Annual event, Exploring Vistas and Soaring to New Heights: Dance/Movement Therapy 2012 and Beyond. It promises to bring hundreds of clinicians and dozens of grad students to Albuquerque, New Mexico in October.

Perhaps comparing attendance at a professional conference to entering a candy store seems a mismatched metaphor to some, but for this dance/movement therapist it is right on target. The only downside to the conference each year is that I cannot clone myself to attend multiple seminars at once. I really wish I could clone myself. No, really, I do.

When I attended the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in 2009 (a MASSIVE conference with over 7000 attendees) I listened to current leaders in psychology and medicine – Ernest Rossi, Daniel Siegel, Bessel van der Kolk, Eugene Gendlin, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, among others – all address the mindbody connection in their work. It was gratifying to hear each of them acknowledge the role of the body in healing and it was uplifting to know that so many other scholars with significantly larger audiences are researching and applying concepts that have always been central to dance/movement therapy practice and theory. Oh, the fruit that could be produced from widespread research collaboration between psychologists, neuroscientists and dance/movement therapists! That day is coming, I feel it. But it can’t come soon enough.

In the meantime, I am extraordinarily proud to have earned the title of board-certified dance/movement therapist and to stand among my colleagues who advance our field and thereby also deepen an understanding of the mindbody connection that informs all approaches to healing. It brings me joy to call attention to the work of my peers and to further emphasize the advanced scholarship and clinical skills that are necessary to call oneself “dance/movement therapist.” (If this is the first post you are reading from my blog, I invite you to read “An Invitation to Those Making the World a Better Place Through Dance” to understand precisely what is required to earn that title.)

In the service of calling attention to the work of my peers, allow me to provide a glimpse into the candy store awaiting conference attendees in October in New Mexico. The conference is open to all. If you are a mental health clinician of any variety and seeking continuing education or even an aspiring student (in dance, in psychology, in social work, etc) our doors are open. Most workshops will be a combination of lecture, discussion and experiential work. There is even a special pre-conference interactive intensive for non-dance/movement therapists (allied professionals and students) to personally and kinesthetically be introduced to basic concepts of dance/movement therapy so that the conference workshops will be more meaningful.

A sampling:

Dance/Movement Therapists and Schools in Collaboration A Multi-Cultural, Embodied Approach to Violence Prevention with Rena Kornblum

Photo courtesy

Beat the Odds: Social/Emotional Skill Building Delivered in a Framework of Drumming and Movement with Ping Ho and Kathy Cass

A Closer Examination of Repetitive Movement and Healing Trauma: Why DMT has Psychology’s Attention with Patricia Lucas

The Dance of Attunement: Utilizing Dance/Movement Therapy to Develop Skills for Affect Regulation with Children with Rebecca Finnoff

The Use of Dance/ Movement Therapy in Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) with Luke Addington

Mutuality in Motion: Integrating Movement Within the Child-Parent Psychotherapy Model to Restore Healthy Attachment with Nancy Toncy

Dance Cuba! Dance/Movement Therapists’ Cross Cultural Collaboration in Cuba with Christina Devereaux

Dance/movement therapy group. Courtesy of ADTA.

Dancing with People with Dementia: Expanding the Roles of Dance/Movement Therapists with Donna Newman-Bluestein

These are but just a few of the 49 workshops and intensives being offered at the 47th Annual ADTA Conference. You can read about the workshops above and others here. And if you are Facebook-inclined (who isn’t?) you can get updates, photos and more at the ADTA Conference Facebook page. (Oh, and I’ve been invited to present a half day intensive on Zumba Fitness® Through the Lens of Dance/Movement Therapy. More on that later …) You can also read the bios of all the presenters here, which I highly recommend if you want to get a glimpse into who dance/movement therapists are and what we do. Our work is quite diverse and I am fascinated by the unique career paths dance/movement therapists find themselves on. I think you will be too.

(Last updated/edited September 9, 2012.)

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Let me put my cards on the table.

I started this blog two years ago out of a deeply felt frustration that I know is shared by many of my fellow dance/movement therapists. I know they share this frustration in some form or another because the topic and the discussion of ways to address it has been repeated – for years – in professional discussions, online forums and local and national dialogues. It is an ongoing issue for our professional community.

The frustration is this:

In the 21st century, how can it be that the profession of dance/movement therapy is not better known? Better understood? At the very least, heard of? Granted, if one is not working in the mental health or rehabilitation or wellness professions, then it is perhaps logical that the profession be an unfamiliar concept. Certainly, I have never heard of countless occupations. But, how can it be in the 21st century, over ten years since the “Decade of the Brain” concluded, that dance/movement therapy is not better understood by our colleagues whose professions involve psychology or neuroscience?

How is it that when one googles “dance therapy” on the internet, one gets more references to Brittany Spears and pole dancing or random dance classes than one gets legitimate information on the nearly 50 year old profession of dance/movement therapy?

This latest spike in frustration was inspired by the recent feature on Anderson Cooper 360 that took a close look at a day in the life of Gabrielle Gifford’s rehabilitation at the TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Texas.

How is it that when Dr. Sanjay Gupta visited the hospital to get a hands on experience of a day in the life of Congresswoman Giffords’ recovery, dance/movement therapy was not included in the diverse list of therapies? Yes, music therapy was on the day’s agenda and, to Dr. Gupta’s credit, he really appreciated the power of music therapy to work “on developing … attention, memory and overall executive function.” This acknowledgement on a show as respected and widely viewed as CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 is a real boost for our colleagues in the music therapy profession.

But dance/movement therapy was NOT on the schedule and it was not addressed by Dr. Gupta – by name. However, a quick glimpse at the video of the music therapist, Maegan Morrow, reveals that she was incorporating movement with the music to help her patients improve cognitively and learn to walk again. “Lean 2, 3, 4, Push up, 2, 3, 4…” The diverse therapies at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital work together to rehabilitate patients from traumatic injury… and yet the experts on using movement psychotherapeutically, who are specifically trained in connecting through movement and facilitating movement and rhythm – for whatever end goal – are not on that team?

“The brain learns best when it processes cognitive, affective and psychomotor information simultaneously.” (emphasis mine.)
Dr. Michael Merzenich

This is fundamental knowledge to neuroscientists and to anyone familiar with “brain-based learning.”

Movement is not only integral to healing psychologically, it is integral to effective rehabilitation of the brain, to learning and to brain plasticity.

Though my peers and I ask these questions – how, how, how can the world not know? – we do so, of course, acknowledging the onus is on us, the dance/movement therapists. This is precisely why I blog on DMT, why I encourage my colleagues to do the same and why I am writing a book on the topics of this blog.

Did you know:

Neuroscientists have declared the importance of psychomotor processing to learning.

The New England Journal of Medicine published that dancing, moreso than any other leisure activity, decreases cognitive decline in senior citizens over 75.

Physical therapists have published repeatedly on the therapeutic value of dancing the tango for people with Parkinson’s disease.

These are but drops in the bucket of research that RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT reveal the importance of dance and movement in our lives and yet… the official profession of dance/movement therapy remains in the shadows.

Compared to the combined fields that make up verbal psychotherapies (social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists) – and even to our allied creative art therapists – dance/movement therapists are still very small in number. We practice in countries all over the world but only have seven graduate programs in the United States where the dance/movement therapy master’s degree can be earned. There are additional ADTA approved “alternate route” programs for individuals who have a master’s degree in a related mental health field to get the requisite DMT training; even so, a handful of programs can only produce so many dance/movement therapists a year.

The simple fact of the matter is that at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, California in 2009, the leading psychologists and psychiatrists in the world presented, among other things, on the importance of acknowledging the body in psychotherapy: attending to bodily sensation, breathwork, moving, mindfulness, meditating. The handful of respected dance/movement therapists that attended with me sat, nodding, in agreement. Yes. Yes, we know. This is what we do. This is what we have done for over forty years.

The simple fact of the matter is that 10 million people worldwide are participating in Zumba® classes each week, many referring to it as their “therapy.” Television news stations are doing stories on the effect of Zumba® on its students and teachers alike, noting its therapeutic value in places as unusual as prisons. Again, though Zumba® is a fitness class and not dance/movement therapy, the fact that dancing is experienced as being “therapeutic,” even within the structure of an exercise class, comes as no surprise to those in our profession.

The world is discovering in its own ways that movement and dance and the bodymind connection are important. This is wonderful! This growing awareness should be shining an ever-expanding spotlight on the profession that has been implementing these truths in its clinical practice for decades. Dance/movement therapists have not just discovered the power of movement to evoke emotion… or heal trauma… or break through isolation… or express that which cannot be spoken… or garner insight… or connect with self, with others. Dance/movment therapists have an extensive body of research and theory that delves deeply into these subjects. Our expertise can be your expertise… if the dialogue begins.

We must be on the edge of a fusion, of an integration, of a collaboration between verbal psychotherapies, neuroscience, medicine and dance/movement therapy that will change the course of healing and wellness and recovery in this new century. We must be on that edge. I can feel it.

But the awareness has to spread so that the curiosity can pique and the collaborations can begin large scale.

Dance/movement therapy must go viral.

That is my challenge to you. Help spread awareness. The research and the experts are there to back it all up. What is needed is awareness.

How I wish the media would shed light – BIG LIGHT – on these stories – or simply look in their own communities for the stories that are happening there, right now:

Dance/movement therapists making breakthroughs with children with autism.

Dance/movement therapists teaching staff and caregivers essential nonverbal communication skills to more meaningfully connect with those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Dance/movement therapists empowering women in India who are survivors of human trafficking and sexual abuse.

A Dance/movement therapist helping child soldiers in Sierra Leone feel empathy again – and teaching others how to continue the work in their communities through dance.

A dance/movement therapist who has designed a movement based curriculum to help foster empathy and prevent violence in schools.

There is not enough light cast on this work nor on its potential to effect real change in the lives of millions of people across the globe.

Help shine the light.

If your life or the life of someone you love has been touched by Alzheimer’s, autism, bullying, cancer, trauma, Parkinson’s, mental illness, an eating disorder, body image issues, brain injury… if you have ever felt the power of dance in your own life, on some level, please pass this on.

Shine the light.

This is a “virus” the world desperately needs.

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It is always a delight to hear of a colleague’s work being recognized in the media. Recently, Allison Winters, BC-DMT, was recognized for her work with veterans at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in Bronx, New York. She works as part of the interdisciplinary Community Living Center treatment team that includes social workers, dieticians, doctors, nurses and others, all collaborating to meet the unique needs of each veteran and his or her family.

Allison is not alone; dance/movement therapists work at VA hospitals across the nation, helping veterans express feelings nonverbally that are too difficult to share with words.

In California, dance/movement therapists have also been working with veterans for years but, without an additional degree, have been limited to working in the VA hospitals under the department of “Recreation Therapy,” a title that does not recognize the master’s level education of DMTs. However, with the passage of SB 788 by the state legislature in the fall of 2009, that has changed. SB 788 established the licensure of professional clinical counselors. (Surprisingly, California was the LAST state in the nation to license professional counselors; it was a long, hard-fought battle to get California up to speed with the rest of the country on this matter.)

One benefit of SB 788 passing, specifically to veterans, is that California will soon be able to take advantage of federal funding that was earmarked to provide vital counseling services to veterans in VA hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs.)

Dance/movement therapists’ graduate level training is on par with the stringent educational and clinical requirements requisite to become an LPCC in California and, as such, DMTs will be able to work throughout the state in departments hitherto denied them without an additional marriage and family therapy or social work license.

More California veterans will be able to benefit from working nonverbally and from acknowledging the body that stores their trauma.

To read more about Allison’s work, click here .

To read more about the importance of the body in healing from trauma, download this pdf.

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I am mortified.

The profession of dance/movement therapy – which is regulated by a certification board and, with the recent passage of SB 788 in California, is licensable in all 50 states – faces enough challenge as it is to educate the public about what it is that we do with clients. The professional life of a dance/movement therapist involves education of patients, colleagues, and even friends and family daily.

Unfortunately, one can google “dance therapy” and almost always find a link to pole dancing or Britney Spears, ranking as high as websites that are connected to the legitimate profession of DMT.

I just read this blog post on the Huffington Post concerning “lap dance therapy” that was conducted with troubled teens in an Oregon institution that was clearly in violation of numerous professional and ethical regulations.

I am devastated for these teens who were already traumatized by events in their pasts, and then forced to embody sexual postures during “group therapy” time and re-traumatized and humiliated.

I am angry for them. Angry that someone took advantage of them. Angry that trusting future therapists – especially body-based psychotherapists – will be more difficult for these kids.

And I am angry for our profession.

I know of numerous skilled, brilliant, highly trained dance/movement therapists who work with abuse victims and trauma victims – who know how to incorporate the body into healing work in a safe, gradual, compassionate way. True healing of trauma requires acknowledgment of the body because the body stores the trauma. The trauma lives in the body. But legitimate registered and/or board-certified dance/movement therapists know how to perform this work skillfully, artfully, humanely and appropriately. DMT-with-Trauma-Info-Sheet

I simply must counteract this tragic news story with an affirmation of the power of legitimate dance/movement therapy and provide education to you, the public, about the credentialing you should be looking for when seeking to work with a dance/movement therapist.

There are two levels of credentialing in dance/movement therapy, similar to marriage and family therapists and social workers. If you are working with a dance/movement therapist privately, one to one, that therapist should have a BC-DMT (the more advanced credential) behind his or her name. If you are seeing a dance/movement therapist in a clinic or hospital, that person’s name can be followed by R-DMT or BC-DMT.

If you’d like to learn more about what registry (R-DMT) and board certification (BC-DMT) mean and the graduate and post-graduate training that is necessary to earn either mark, the distinctions are detailed here. (Do note that our marks recently changed. Prior to Oct 8, 2009, our credentials were DTR and ADTR, respectively. Know that those were legitimate but have very recently changed.)

The American Dance Therapy Association has been in existence for over forty years. Given our focus on the body, movement, and even the use of touch, the number of ethical or legal complaints against legitimate dance/movement therapists has been negligible.

Learn about the profession. Be educated consumers. Work with legitimate dance/movement therapists. Want to find one in your city or state? Start here.

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Just thought I’d share this upcoming workshop. I wrote about David Alan Harris’ work with former child soldiers in Sierra Leone in an earlier post. (You can read that post and link to the radio podcast here.) This is an amazing opportunity to learn about his approach in person. If only I lived on the East Coast!

: A Dance/Movement Therapy Workshop For Dance Therapists and Movement Professionals

DAVID ALAN HARRIS, MA, LCAT, ADTR, a leading dance and movement therapist, will share his work with former child soldiers in Sierra Leone and other parts of Africa, and with young male survivors of severe trauma. Combining his careers in human rights advocacy and choreography to work on the ground in Sierra Leone’s Kailahun District, David has collaborated with local counselors to develop an innovative dance and movement program to provide treatment for 12 former child soldiers, all of whom were orphans who survived the brutality of Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war. David’s inspiring work has demonstrated that “dance and movement therapy (DMT) interventions, if designed to promote cultural relevance and community ownership, may enhance healing among adolescent survivors of war and organized violence.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009
10 AM – 5 PM

At Preinkert Dance Studio
University of Maryland
College Park

$30 for professionals
$20 for students and retired professionals

To register, email Teresa Redmon at TREDMON1964@COMCAST.NET
And send check, made out to MD/DC/VA chapter of ADTA, to
3018 Benefit Court, Abingdon, MD 21009

For more information please call Karen Bradley at 202-669-3927

In this workshop you will:
1. Be introduced to David’s particular approach to working with survivors of trauma and violence.
2. Share best practices with movement professionals in working with clients with stress and somatoform issues.
3. Consider ways in which dance therapy might intersect with and influence international relief work.

Come and learn from his stories.
Read David Alan Harris’s article on his work in Foreign Policy in Focus.

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I have great respect for the work dance/movement therapists do with all populations, but I am riveted by my colleagues who work in the trenches with victims of war and torture. Without commentary, I simply want to draw your attention to the powerful work that a fellow dance/movement therapist, David Alan Harris, did with child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Please take a few moments, settle in and read of his account.

And/or perhaps you would rather hear him share the story on ABC Radio on the series All in the Mind.

But do take the time to learn about the circumstances of these children; learn how the work of dance/movement therapy reached them.

While David Alan Harris’ use of dance/movement therapy was tailored specifically to the needs of the children as those needs manifested in the moment, the following brochure from the American Dance Therapy Association can give you a little more insight into how dance/movement therapists work with trauma, in general.


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