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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spotlight on Interventions: The Value of Dance and Movement Therapy

If I asked you to close your eyes and visualize what dance looks like, you might envision dance as it relates to modern entertainment. Dance is currently a popular theme in competitive reality TV shows such as “So you Think You Can Dance and “Dancing with the Stars.” Dance has also become a significant part of social media. Perhaps you visualized a viral video with a toddler bouncing to a current pop song, carefully scripted choreography for a wedding party, or a thought-provoking social platform such as "One Billion Rising" which raises awareness of world-wide Domestic Violence.  Over the course of time, dance has had significant celebratory, religious, and community meaning.  In the mind’s eye, dance may mean art and athleticism. Regardless of what you imagine, ideas about dance evolve based on our lived experiences. When I visualize dance, I see movement that expresses more than simple word. Movement is a very powerful tool for the emotional well-being of people regardless of age, gender, physical status, ethnicity and/or socio-economic status.

Dance Movement Therapy  (DMT) and Counseling is often misunderstood. As a professional, I educate colleagues and the community about what I do and how movement affects our daily lives.  As you are reading this, it might help to dispel some of the basic assumptions I hear.


“Are you a physical therapist for dancers?”

“If I spin around in a few circles I’ll magically be better?”

“You’re going to teach me to dance?”

“Are you going to expect me to do that stuff I see on tv? I can’t do that!”

The best way to explain “what I do” and the therapy I provide is to discuss how it is defined by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA). Dance/Movement Therapy is the use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual. All in all, it’s a fancy way of stating that a Dance/Movement Therapist works with every aspect of the client and what they’re experiencing through the use of movement instead of just traditional “talk” therapy.

Dance/Movement Therapy is a psychotherapy. Just like with any therapy session it is essential to have a solid sense of psychological safety, referred to by many as a “safe space”. Within these safety nets, the patient/client is able to freely explore thoughts, feelings and their unconscious. A movement therapist, like myself, works first on establishing this quality of safety and understanding. Many people are intimidated by the idea of moving in front of others, fearing judgment and embarrassment, and this fear holds them back from wanting to experience a therapy such as DMT. But under this fear, I want to instill the understanding, in this post, that Dance/Movement Therapy looks different according to whom it is being conducted with. There are DMTs who work with a wide variety of populations, such as, those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Eating Disorders, Personality Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, substance abuse, at-risk teens and children, and veterans as well as medical diagnoses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Dementia; and the list goes on and on.

Movement, just like the people creating it, is individualized. It also comes in many varieties, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. It ranges from the gestures that we use while talking, to the fast-paced movements of a leg shake some may display when anxious. Movement also occurs at barely visible levels right down to the breath we take. Think about it, breath is the most natural way that we move. It is the foundation of our entire existence wrapped into a simple inhale and exhale. Some fundamental work I do as a Dance/Movement Therapist centers on breathing patterns. Examining how deep, shallow, fast, slow, tense, or relaxed the breathing is often translates to a better analysis and/or understanding of how the individual is feeling…and then we build from there. It really can be that “simple” of a movement.

So now you might ask, what does Dance/Movement Therapy look like? A colleague of mine, Lora Wilson Mau (2011) stated. “[The] Key to dance/movement therapy (as opposed to a dance class or a Zumba™ class) is the therapeutic relationship 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.

You may also wonder if Dance/Movement Therapy is for you.  Spoken word is something that we learned as we developed but sometimes it falls short.  Humans may not always be “tuned into” our movement but it’s no secret that words can’t always describe how we are feeling.  Dance/Movement Therapy with a trained therapist can unlock barriers to good emotional health and well-being.

My goal as a DMT is to bring a holistic, wellness experience to each child, teen, and adult in therapy. As a Dance/Movement Therapist and Counselor, I work using movement in conjunction with other forms of expressive therapies as well as traditional “talk therapy.” The process all depends on the individual as well as personal history, goals, and comfort levels.

Enlightened Interventions is offering two group workshops with special purposes designed to empower the attendees.  One group is for teen girls age 13-17 who may struggle with seeing the beauty in their bodies. In an age where teens are barraged by unhealthy portrayals of the “ideal,” these sessions will focus on self-esteem and celebrating their uniqueness. We are also excited to offer a group for girls and boys ages 6-8 who need some help with social skills. This movement therapy group will engage your little super heroes while having fun!
If you have a child/teen in your life, these groups may be just what they need after the holidays, please feel free to contact Liz at enlightenedinterventions@gmail.com or me at BriannaMartin@enlightenedinterventionsllc.org about setting up a referral.  Both groups will take place on Wednesday nights after the New Year. Tune into our facebook page or contact Liz at the email listed for more information on our official start date!
If you have a particular interest in movement therapy, we will tailor sessions for you or someone else in your life.
We are looking forward to expanding our Dance/Movement Therapy services in 2015!!

There will be posts to follow specific to each of these groups and what the goals and approaches are aimed to be.

Remember dance skills are not needed for any group or individual session; it is all about the movement.   


Yours in Movement,




Dance/Movement Therapist and Counselor


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