Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

More and more press is being devoted to people who are benefitting from the inherently healing power of dance.
A Zumba® Fitness Class

Recently, the Orange County Register reported on a former Laker girl who offers dance classes to cancer survivors.

Another online article highlights the work of a social worker using dance and movement in her work with a boy with Asperger’s syndrome.

It is always inspiring to read about people’s lives being positively affected by dance, whether it is through Zumba® Fitness or in classes taught by former dancers who know from their own personal experiences how healing and cathartic it can be. Dance IS inherently healing.

The pioneers of the profession of dance/movement therapy were also exploring the use of dance as therapy in the 1940s and 1950s, planting the seeds of the modern profession of dance/movement therapy with their respective groundbreaking work with World War II veterans, psychiatric patients and clients seeking deeper self-understanding.

Dance/movement therapy has come a long way as a profession since the American Dance Therapy Association was established in 1966. We have accumulated nearly four decades of published scholarship and dance/movement therapy professionals practice in over 30 countries. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of dance/movement therapists in this country is estimated to increase by 15 percent by 2018. (Source: International Business Times.)

To all the dancers, teachers and therapists impacting people’s lives through dance, I invite you to consider undertaking the training to become a board certified dance/movement therapist (BC-DMT.)

With graduate level training, your skills can benefit from the knowledge that dance/movement therapy scholars, researchers and practitioners have cultivated over 60 years.

Under the tutelage of renown clinicians, you can learn to hone your compassionate instincts into the refined nonverbal and verbal skills of a trained therapist, one who understands thoroughly the nuances of how to best employ dance and movement to facilitate healing.

Dance/movement therapy group. (Photo courtesy of ADTA.)

Dance does heal. Yes! Absolutely! It is therapeutic, cathartic, empowering! Dance has been a healing force in communities since time immemorial.

The practice of true clinical dance/movement therapy (DMT), however, is a complex and nuanced one, involving graduate level understanding of all of the following:

psychological theory
human development
multicultural perspectives
group process
behavioral research
psychopathology, psychodiagnosis and assessment skills
dance/movement therapy theory
expressive & communicative aspects of verbal & non-verbal behavior
movement observation and analysis
human anatomy, kinesiology, and basic neuroscience
and clinical applications of DMT with individuals, families & groups
(Source: ADTA.org)

Even though DMT has been an organized profession since 1966, many people exploring the therapeutic use of dance today feel they are creating something “original” and pioneering a new path.

One truth is these paths were actually pioneered decades ago…

Marian Chace: a pioneer of modern day dance/movement therapy.

AND, yet, another truth is that, in fact, we are ALL STILL pioneers.

Dance/movement therapy graduate students at Drexel University

Dance/movement therapists belong to a community of trailblazers that have been on the cutting edge of mind/body medicine since the mid 20th century. However, in a population of over seven billion people, it is hard to hear the voices of less than two thousand dance/movement therapists dispersed around the globe.

But, the number of voices is multiplying. Adding to the chorus, amplified by the power of the internet, are an even greater number of voices proclaiming throughout the world that dance and movement is helping them cope – with cancer, with Parkinson’s disease, with depression, with autism, with Life. If you are a person who is helping others express their emotions through dance or cope through dance… we need you and you need us.

I remember reading once that, by flying in a V formation, geese can fly 71% farther than if they were flying individually. This happens because each flap of the birds’ wings creates an uplift for the birds that follow.

Your flock awaits.

I invite you to learn more about the profession of dance/movement therapy and consider it as a career option. For those of you who already have a Master’s degree in a mental health related field, you can pursue board certification via alternate route training or pursue a PhD in dance/movement therapy. For those of you in the midst of your undergraduate schooling, you might want to take a closer look at these graduate schools offering Master’s degrees in dance/movement therapy. (Note that if relocation to one of the seven graduate programs is not possible for you, alternate route training is also an option.)

Together, let’s grow the research, the scholarship, and practice of dance/movement therapy so that all might understand its efficacy and have access to the healing inherent in dance.


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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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