The increased popularity of dance in American culture in recent years has created the need for clarity on the differences between “therapeutic” dance and dance/movement therapy. In this ADTA Talk, Susan Imus, MA, LCPC, BC-DMT, GL-CMA, discusses what sets dance/movement therapy apart from the flash mobs and TV shows that have catapulted dance front and center.

“Currently, the word ‘therapy’ is used to refer to anything that makes us ‘feel better’,” Imus observes.   “…But feeling better from dance is not the same thing as dance/movement therapy. So how can we differentiate [between] dancers who utilize the innate therapeutic power of dance and [the clinical practice of] dance/movement therapy?”

All dancers and dance/movement therapists work along the continuum of dance approaches. However, only dance/movement therapists are trained to do therapy.

Dance DMT Spectrum
Credit: Susan Imus

As Imus explains: “[Dance/movement therapists] use dance and movement to foster health, communication, and expression. Promote the integration of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social functioning. Enhance self awareness. And facilitate change.”

Dance teachers take a directive approach, while dance/movement therapists clinically intervene using a patient’s personal movement repertoire. Unscripted dance and movement are the dance/movement therapist’s assessment and intervention tools to aid in addressing an individual’s health objectives.

The years of training and clinical supervision a dance/movement therapist undergoes uniquely prepares them to “responsibly handle almost any bio-psycho-social situation that may surface during the dance making and dance creation process.”


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