How to Become a Dance Movement Therapist

Grandmother and granddaughter dancing together
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Dance movement therapy is the use of dance movements to help treat a variety of emotional, psychological and physical impairments. The medical world has recognized the connection between mind and body, and the history of dance movement therapy dates back to the 1940s, according to the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA). Dance therapy is used in a variety of practice settings, such as hospitals, classrooms, nursing homes, and rehab centers, with many types of patients including children, adults, and geriatrics.

According to the ADTA, dance therapy can help treat patients who are dealing with one or more of a variety of physical and emotional or psychosocial conditions such as Parkinson's disease, autism, Alzheimer's, eating disorders, or trauma.

How to Become a Dance Movement Therapist

Dance therapists are required to have a master's degree, which entails at least two years of graduate-level education after completing a four-year college degree. The undergraduate education should include a liberal arts background, plus extensive dance training and experience, according to the ADTA.

One's master's degree should be from an ADTA-approved program, of which there are seven listed on their website. However, if you have a master's or doctoral degree in a related human services field such as psychology, counseling, social work, special education, dance education, occupational or physical therapy, medicine, or family therapy, you may apply for a DMT training program and then complete registration as a dance movement therapist (DMT), according to the ADTA.

Due to the nature of the work, dance movement therapists should be passionate about working with people of all ages, and should of course love to dance! As is the case for all medical professionals, wanting to help others, heal the sick, and possessing the patience to deal with many different types of people with special needs are key characteristics as well.

Requirements for Working With Children

The Board of Directors of the ADTA set the following recommendations as minimal requirements in working with children. You must have a master’s degree in dance/movement therapy or related field, knowledge, understanding, and demonstrated competencies acquired through education, supervised internship, or work experience in the following areas:

  1. Applications of dance/movement therapy with children;
  2. Cognitive, social, and psychological development;
  3. Movement behavior and nonverbal communication;
  4. Family systems theory;
  5. Development through the lifespan
  6. Multiculturalism and diversity

Professional Designations

There are two levels of DMTs: Registered DMT and Board-Certified. Registered DMT (R-DMT) is the entry level DMT, and board certified DMTs (BC-DMT) are more experienced and are qualified to teach and supervise interns as well as treat patients as a DMT.

Compensation

According to SimplyHired.com, the average salary for dance movement therapists is $40,000, which is low compared to other master's level therapists' careers such as occupational therapy or physical therapy. However, dance therapy is the only one of these that allows you to dance at work! According to SalaryExpert.com, compensation for DMTs in metro areas ranges from about $38,000 to $47,000 annual salary.

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