February 1, 2024

Therapy That ‘Moves’ You: Dance/Movement Therapy with Children

The benefits of dance/movement therapy are many. Read here to learn about them.

Dance is known to some as a performing art, to others as a way to exercise, or a way to engage an active child, but what about dance as a therapy?  What about using dance as a way for children to communicate and express themselves when traditional forms of communication are hindered by behavioral or cognitive difficulties?

What is Dance/Movement Therapy?

Dance/movement therapy (DMT), according to the American Dance Therapy Association, is the “psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical, social, and spiritual integration of the individual.”  DMT supports that mind, body, and spirit are connected and that individuals should be treated in such a way that supports integration of these three entities.

DMT focuses on movement behavior as it emerges in the therapeutic relationship allowing the child to develop a positive and realistic self-image.  Dance/movement therapy has been effective in stimulating social interaction, enhancing mood, reducing anxiety, and increasing self-awareness and self-expression.  The focus of communication is on non-verbal attunement and mindfulness, both of which support acquisition and maintenance of language and cognitive skills.

Movement interventions can help set limits whereby children can learn to control impulsive behavior and to increase their ability to maintain focus and attention.  Movement serves as a catalyst for contact and paves the way for communication between the therapist and the individual.

What does a dance/movement therapist do?

Dance/movement therapists use body movement, as the core component of dance, to provide the means of assessment and the mode of intervention for therapy.  Dance/movement therapists’ unique abilities allow for better understanding which aid in reflecting and expanding nonverbal expressions.  This can help individuals improve socialization and communication as well as build body awareness which can directly affect motor deficits.    The therapist helps to enhance communication skills, creating pathways from the nonverbal to verbal.  As a result, awareness of self and others, coping skills, and the ability to form relationships can all be improved.  Verbalizing movement is another means of positively reflecting the child’s appearance, improving body image as well as helping the child organize and structure experiences in the brain. Integration of the child’s own body parts and awareness of others’, builds the child’s movement vocabulary.  This in turn increases their ability to communicate their wants and needs.

In a dance/movement therapy session, music and props are often incorporated to encourage extension of movement, self expression, and socialization.  Many movement styles and approaches can be used to attain interaction and authentic expression including, but not limited to, creative dance, expressive movement, relaxation techniques, role-playing, improvisation, and interactive games.

Who are dance/movement therapists?

Dance/movement therapists have completed graduate degrees at programs approved by the American Dance Therapy Association.  The course work includes biological, social, psychological and behavioral sciences, research methodology, movement assessment and observation, history, theory, and techniques of dance/movement therapy.  Entry level dance/movement therapists have completed 750+ hours of supervised clinical practice.  Board certification is earned upon completion of 4000 hours of supervised clinical work, 48 hours of clinical supervision, and acceptance of a theoretical framework by the Dance/Movement Therapy Certification Board.  The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) has recognized dance/movement therapy as a specialty of counseling since 1998.

Where can I find Dance/Movement Therapy?

DMT with children is often used in the home environment, in schools, day programs, hospitals, and residential facilities.  It is provided in individual, group, and family sessions, in order to best support the development of the child.

For more information:

Contact Erica Hornthal at (847) 848-0697 or visit www.northshoredancetherapy.com.

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