Dance Therapy

Dance therapy is a method of helping patients improve their physical, emotional and mental well-being through movement. Learn where dance therapists work, and check the education required for this career.

Is Dance Therapy for Me?

Career Overview

Dance has long played a role in human self-expression, religious ceremonies and the promotion of good health. If you worked as a dance therapist, you'd use dance to treat people who have physical, cognitive or mental disabilities. People who've experienced abuse or trauma may also benefit from dance therapy. To work in this profession, you'd need a background that includes both training in dance and instruction in psychology.

Career Options and Job Duties

As a dance therapist, you may be employed in a daycare or rehabilitation center, hospital, mental health facility, nursing home or school; private practice is also an option. Your job duties could include teaching group dance classes or creating individualized dance routines in accordance with the unique abilities and needs of your clients. For example, a program for young children would be very different from one designed for seniors, individuals recovering from abuse or the physically disabled who have difficulty walking. In addition to improvements in muscle strength and physical coordination, dance therapies can promote a sense of well being and help clients feel less depressed and more confident.

How Do I Become a Dance Therapist?

Education

To become a professional dance therapist, you'll most likely need an advanced degree in dance therapy or human services. Graduate programs in dance therapy can lead to a master's degree or Doctor of Philosophy, and these programs might include training in dance and movement therapy, therapeutic interaction and psychology. You may also study counseling assessments and practices, personality theories and psychopathology. Additional program features can include the opportunity to conduct research and participate in supervised field experiences with diverse age groups and populations.

Areas of emphasis associated with a graduate program in human services include counseling, therapy and social work. As an aspiring professional, you'd also take classes in dance therapy and theory and learn how movement can be used in a therapeutic group setting. Additional requirements might include 700 supervised clinical counseling hours. After you've earned your degree, you may also pursue a voluntary national certification from the American Dance Therapy Association (www.adta.org).

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