Dance/Movement Therapy with the Children at Easter Seals

By, Michelle Baxley – Dance/Movement Therapy Intern at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center – SEPA

“What is dance/movement therapy? I’ve never heard of it.” Most often that is the reaction I get when people find out I am getting my masters in dance/movement therapy (DMT) and counseling. It’s an understandable question, as DMT is still a rather new field. DMT sits under the umbrella of the creative arts therapies with art therapy, music therapy, and drama therapy. Since its conception in the 1940s, DMT has grown into an internationally recognized therapy with its own national organization and is recognized as an accredited masters program in several universities around the world.

Here is some information to help you better understand DMT and its application to Easter Seals:

  1. What is dance/movement therapy?

The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) defines DMT as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual” (ADTA.org). What this really means is that dance/movement therapists use movement as a way to assess a person’s level of functioning in a variety of areas as well as using movement as an intervention tool to help an people reach their developmental goals. The end goal is ultimately to better integrate a person’s body and mind.

  1. How do you become a dance/movement therapist?

To become a dance/movement therapist you must complete a two-year master’s program in dance/movement therapy from an ADTA accredited university. Once you receive your master’s degree, you must complete a certain number of clinical working hours with supervision and then you may apply to become a Board Certified dance/movement therapist. I am currently finishing my second year of graduate school at Drexel University and have been interning at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center for the past nine months.

  1. My child has limited movement and is nonverbal. How could he/she benefit from dance/movement therapy?

If you think about it, everyone, even those with the most limited movement abilities, moves in some capacity. Movement is our first language. It is the first way infants explore the world through rolling over, reaching for various objects, and moving objects to and from their mouths and then to potentially crawling and walking. Even a head nod or the gesture of a hand is a movement. Dance/movement therapists use this movement, however small, as a means of nonverbally communicating with the child. We create a personal relationship with the child through movement and help that child find other forms of creative expression besides words.

  1. How does dance/movement therapy help my child at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center?

At Easter Seals Early Intervention Center, I use dance/movement therapy to help students create social interactions with peers; practice problem solving, turn taking, and listening; explore creativity in play; facilitate emotional expression; and promote self and emotional regulation all in a playful and creative environment. All of my goals for these children are aimed at helping them transition into kindergarten. Additionally, I work with the other occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language therapists, and music therapists to provide a more holistic treatment approach.

  1. Where can I learn more about dance/movement therapy?

Websites:

  • American Dance Therapy Association –

www.adta.org

      ●      National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations, Inc –

http://www.nccata.org/

  • Drexel University Master’s in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling

http://drexel.edu/cnhp/academics/graduate/MA-Dance-Movement-Therapy-Counseling

Books:

  • Levy, F. J., Fried, J. P., & Leventhal, F. (Eds.) (1995). Dance and other expressive arts therapies. London: Routledge.
  • Naess Lewin, J. L. (1998). Dance therapy notebook. Washington, DC: American Dance Therapy Association.
  • Sandel, S. L., Chaiklin, S., & Lohn, A. (Eds.) (1993). Foundations of dance/movement Therapy: The life and work of Marian Chace. Washington, DC: American Dance Therapy Association.

Videos:

While DMT is still a young field, it is definitely growing and increasing its body of research every year. It’s a versatile therapy that can be adapted for any population. If you have more questions feel free to email me at mbaxley@easterseals-sepa.org.

Happy Moving,

Michelle Baxley,
Dance/Movement Therapy Intern at Easterseals Early Intervention Center – SEPA

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