Dance Movement Psychotherapy

Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) refers to the professional practice of psychotherapy through bodily movement. Both are grounded in the premise that the body and mind are inseparable.
“The ultimate goal of dance movement therapy is to support the experience of wholeness through integration of the body, mind and spirit” – Levy 1988.

DMT and its evolution

This article linked below traces the emergence of dance movement psychotherapy in Ireland.
Dance Therapy

People of all ages can benefit from DMT. Dance experience is not necessary. DMT can open doors to feeling more at home in your body. It is especially valuable to people where trauma, injury or illness has impacted the body and or the sense of self; for example people dealing with? eating disorder, mental health issues including addiction, anxiety, depression and needs for recovery from violence. The creative and spontaneous aspects of DMT provide a natural modality appropriate to the developing body-centred child and adolescent (presentation). Example: Children with autism, emotionally distressed children, children with learning challenges. DMT also is useful in working with the elders in our community to reignite their joy in movement. Other communities that can be supported by DMT include managing men looking at men’s issues, intercultural communities, issues of diversity, and sexuality and sexual identity can also be worked with through DMT. Dance movement therapy is most recently being applied to engaging with the environment, and city challenges.

DMT can help in:

  • Developing appropriate body image , tone and self acceptence
  • Learning to express and regulate feelings
  • Learning to break down problems and make decisions
  • Developing an integrated body sense
  • Healing developmental deficiencies
  • Managing life challenges
  • Resourcing and embodiment after traumatic experiences
  • Working through conflicts
  • Working on relationships challenges including intimacy and sexuality
  • Developing relationship skills
  • Developing diversity skills, working with different cultural imprints and intercultural competence
  • Developing self awareness and confidence
  • Working with environmental issues in urban and rural spaces.

Dance Movement Therapists are trained to Master’s level and are accredited by IACAT. They carry out assessments, plan, implement and evaluate DM-based therapy interventions to work with specific populations.

Dance and spontaneous movement have always been used to promote healing, express feelings, and negotiate spirituality. This ancient practice is transcultural. However DMT as a form of psychotherapy began in the United States in the 1940s initially in state psychiatry where Marian Chace used her knowledge of the body as a dancer as a form of communication. By perceiving the de-synchronisation of the body with compassion she was able to relate to isolated communities. Using mirroring , shared rhythm connection between self and other was invited. Meanwhile another pioneering Dance Movement Therapist Mary Whitehouse worked with normal populations to support them to integrate complexes through working with the body as a way to make a connection between the known and the unknown. Mary explored movement from habit moving versa being moved by a deeper intelligence.

DMT in Ireland has been initiated by therapists trained in the USA, England, and Spain. Dance as a healing art and as a method of health education emerged in Ireland in the 1990’s in the Western Healthboard through Bernadette Divilly. Dance Movement therapy was pioneered in the Health Services with children with disabilities and in health education then in the Northern Health Board by Fran Burns.

Currently Dance Movement Therapists in Ireland work in private practice, research and publishing and community settings. They have very varied and diverent careers as they creat opportunities for their own employment.

The Health Services are using DMT as an element of integrated approach to work with mothers and babies at risk for developmental delay.

As the art form of dance, and the field of psychotherapy including contemporary neuroscience research develop grow so will somatic based body therapies and Dance Movement Therapy in 3rd level Education

Pre and peri-natal psychology and mindfulness practices are developing with virgour as evidenced by the first Irish based Somatic Education training Orgins developed by Joan Davis on the east coast of Ireland.

Adler, J. (2002)

Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement, Inner Traditions: Rochester

Aposhyan, Susan (1999)

Natural Intelligence: Body-Mind Integration & Human Development. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins

Aposhyan, Susan (2004)

Body-Mind Psychotherapy. W.W.Norton.

Bartenieff, I. and Lewis, D. (1980)

Body Movement: Coping with the Environment, Gordon and Breach Science Publishers: New York

Bernstein, P.L. (1974)

Eight Theoretical Approaches in Dance Movement Therapy, Kendal/Hunt: Dubuque/Iowa

Moves: a Sourcebook of Ideas for Body Awareness and Creative Movement, Harwood Academic Publishers: Amsterdam

Brook, Annie Birth’s Hidden Legacy: Volumes 1&2: A Manual For Therapists, Parents, and Couples (2014)

Chaiklin, S. & Wengrower, H. (Eds.), (2008)

Life is Dance: The art and science of dance movement therapy. New York: Routledge Press.

Chodorow, J. (1991)

Dance Therapy and Depth Psychology: The Moving Imagination, Routledge: London and New York

Etherington, K. (2003)

Trauma, The Body and Transformation, Jessica Kingsley: London

Goodill, S.W. (2005)

An Introduction to Medical Dance/Movement Therapy: Health Care in Motion.

Jessica Kingsley.

Hartley, L. (2004)

Somatic Psychology: Body, Mind and Meaning, Whurr: London

Kestenberg-Amighi, J, Loman, S., Lewis, P. and Sossin, M. (1999)

The Meaning of Movement: Developmental and Clinical Perspectives of the Kestenberg Movement Profile, Brunner-Routledge: New York

Levy, F. J. (1988)

Dance Movement Therapy: A Healing Art, The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance: Reston Virginia

Levy, F.J. (Ed), (1995)

Dance and Other Expressive art Therapies- When Words Are Not Enough, Routledge: London

Dance Movement Therapy: .A Psychotherapeutic Approach, Sage: London

Meekums, B. (2000)

Creative Group Therapy for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, Jessica Kingsley: London

Moore, C-L. (2005)

Movement and Making Decisions, Dance and Movement Press: New York

Pallaro, P. (1999)

Authentic Movement: Essay by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, Jessica Kingsley: London

Payne, H. (2008)

Supervision of Dance Movement Psychotherapy: A Practitioner’s Handbook, Routledge: London

Payne, H.L. (2006)

Dance Movement Therapy Theory, Research and Practice 2nd edition, Routledge: London

Peer Reviewed Journals

The Journal of the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists

The Arts in Psychotherapy

Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy

American Journal of Dance Therapy:

International Dance Movement Therapy Associations

American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA)

Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy

European Association Dance Movement Therapy (EADMT) American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA)

Spanish Association For Dance Movement Therapy

International Centre for Research in Arts Therapies (ICRA)

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