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Dance/movement therapy (D/MT) is the psychotherapeutic use of body and movement to promote emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of individuals. "We help people become aware of how feelings and emotions are connected to the body," says Barbara Nordstrom-Loeb, a board-certified dance/movement therapist in Minneapolis. "The body has to be involved in any process of change."
D/MT was created in the 1940s by dance teacher Marian Chace. She noticed that some of her students were more interested in emotional expression than in dance technique. Many of Chace's students reported a greater overall sense of well-being, and local doctors began sending patients - including some with mental illness - to her classes.
Varied Settings, Diverse Patients
Today, therapists work with individuals, couples, families and groups in a range of settings, including psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, schools, nursing homes, drug treatment and counseling centers, crisis centers, and alternative health and wellness programs.
D/MT has proven effective for developmental, medical, social, physical and psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, dementia, cancer, AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder. Therapists may use verbal counseling techniques, but the focus is on how psychological concerns are experienced in the body.
"D/MT can be useful with less verbal people, such as young children or elders with dementia," says Nordstrom-Loeb, who is also a marriage and family therapist. "It's also effective with people who are facile with words, but disconnected from their bodies."
Education And Outlook
Dance/movement therapists need a master's degree in D/MT or a health or human services field like counseling, psychology, social work or family therapy combined with specific D/MT course work and a dance background.
According to Nordstrom-Loeb, D/MT is becoming better known due to the increasing interest in holistic therapies. "Creative expression through body movement is the next frontier in healthcare," she says.