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In this, the first of a series of dance/movement therapy lectures produced for the public by the American Dance Therapy Association, Dr. Christina Devereaux explains the unique capacity of dance/movement therapy to work directly with the core deficits of autism.

It is important to note that there are many sources on the internet and on Youtube that casually use the term “dance therapy” or “movement therapy” for their dance classes. There is a difference between a dance class that produces “therapeutic” benefits and the mental health profession of “dance/movement therapy.” Dr. Devereaux is a board certified dance/movement therapist and an expert in this field (check out her bio on the YouTube video page!)

An excerpt from her talk:

“There is a true reality here. The lack of social reciprocity from children with autism as well as their behavioral disturbances and language deficits, tends to make this disorder difficult and stressful for parents in a manner that is different from other developmental disorders. Parents rely as much on the child’s communication signals as the child relies on the parent’s signals. So, the loss of this engagement and intentional, interaction can feel devastating. Unfortunately, there is no treatment right now that can address the “biology” of autism, but dance/movement therapy can certainly directly address this deep “human effect” of autism. By helping parents experience how to attune, join, connect, and understand their child through the use of nonverbal language, Dance/movement therapy can support parents in forming warm, empathic and satisfying relationships with their children.”

April is Autism Awareness Month. If you know someone who would benefit from this information, please share. Relationships matter. Dance/movement therapy can help.

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This is the question every dance/movement therapist gets – often.

For many people, “dance” is associated with ballet and tutus… or jazz hands and pom poms… or grinding on the nightclub floor. How would that way of moving be a psychotherapy, they wonder. While each of those dance expressions (and dozens more) are valid in their own right, they are not to be expected in a dance/movement therapy session.

One of the challenges of actually showing people what DMT looks like is the fact that DMT is done with patients and clients, not students. There are HIPAA privacy laws and rules of confidentiality and ethical considerations. Dance/movement therapy is a psychotherapy and crucial to the success of any therapy session is an atmosphere of psychological safety – a “safe space” within which to explore thoughts, feelings and the unconscious. A video camera with a red, glowing light does little to engender that feeling of safety.

But once in awhile, permission is granted to video and the resulting footage can go a long way to shedding light on our work.

Below is one such video.

Dr. Lori Baudino, a clinical psychologist and board-certified dance/movement therapist, pioneered the development of the first dance/movement therapy program at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. (I have also had the distinct pleasure of serving alongside Dr. Baudino on the Board of Directors for the California Chapter of the ADTA.)

In this video, Dr. Baudino explains how she uses dance/movement therapy, one on one, with children in the hospital. The footage might surprise you – the work is subtle. She comments about this, too, in her narrative. There are wonderful clips of Dr. Baudino establishing and building relationship with the children through attuning to their movements. Interspersed with the clips, she explains what she does.

Key to dance/movement therapy (as opposed to a dance class or a Zumba™ class) is the therapeutic relationshiop that exists between therapist and client. All movement expression that occurs does so within that relationship. Movement communicates. Dance communicates. The dance/movement therapist is uniquely trained to understand that communication, facilitate it and deepen it.

Surprised by anything in the video? Curious? Intrigued? Feel free to comment and I’m happy to continue a dialogue or answer any of your questions.

Also, if you’d like to read more about the use of dance/movement therapy in the medical field, the current President of the ADTA, Dr. Sherry Goodill, has written a comprehensive book on the subject: An Introduction to Medical Dance/Movement Therapy – Healing in Motion. It’s an amazing feat of scholarship. If you’d like to take a look inside her book, click here.

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