The many definitions of dance/movement therapy.

When I began my blog my intention was to give visibility to dance/movement therapy (DMT), especially on the internet.  I wanted to create another way that people could read/learn about DMT, and to create a platform for discussions between dance/movement therapists (even if this manifests as a feed of Facebook comments).  I’d say I’ve done a fair job of this, covering topics like self-care, web presence of a dance/movement therapist, and what it’s like to be a DMT professional.  All the while I never really defined what DMT is assuming that my readers already knew this or that they were motivated enough to look it up.

And yes, I could try to write a post that defines DMT.  In fact, I’m sure I could write many posts that define DMT (you can find an official definition here).  To me, DMT is a highly personal thing and each dance/movement therapist defines it for themselves based on what they learned in an accredited program.   When I think of the dance/movement therapists that I look up to, they all have their own style of DMT although I’d argue that at the core of what they do is the same.   Since I believe that the definition of DMT is sacred to the practitioner, I asked my DMT community to help me define it.  I sent DMT professionals, teachers and students a message asking them to provide me their definition of DMT.  As in, how would they define it if they met someone new at a cocktail party.  In doing it this way, I hope to show the multiple facets, complexities and interpretations of our work.

Below are the answers I received and one is my own.  I have not altered the answers in any way to leave it true to the author.  This may clarify the definition of DMT or it may convolute it further.  Who knows.  Either way, enjoy and please comment with your own definition and understanding of what DMT is.

We are notorious for splitting the mind from the body. DMT requests that we involve our physical selves into a self-reflective process that so often stays cognitive. When that process remains in the cognitive, we have more opportunity to hide, manage, articulate, masquerade, and compartmentalize those emotions/triggers/thoughts/expressions. However, when we request the body is involved, we expose a more vulnerable or authentic part of the trauma that may need healing or be addressed.

Dance/movement therapy is compassion in action.

Dance movement therapy involves movement being our first language as humans. When we are babies we use movement to get our wants and needs met, therefore our emotions often come out through movement before we are aware of them. In addition to this, our brains are aware of emotions and movement before they are able to process any emotions through the use of language, so it is a beneficial in-road to what is going on with the person emotionally.

A kind of physical psychology, but to me personally it is about freedom of expression, creativity, connecting your spirit to your earth-body, and empowering you to become the master of your life experience.

A therapy that uses dance and the creative process as a means to bring about therapeutic change.  It specifically focuses on how the mind and body interrelate.

DMT is a way to express and communicate thoughts, feelings, and emotions through movement by utilizing mindfulness (being in the present moment without judgment), regulating emotions, tolerating distress, and learning interpersonal response patterns.

[It] should really be called movement/dance therapy as the field looks at how personality is reflected in behavior and behavior is reflected in movement. It is this movement that, when invited to be danced, becomes embodied and opened to change. Just as a choreographer looks to the human body in movement as the canvas and manipulates this canvas to create performance, the movement/dance therapist encourages (helps to choreograph) new ways of being to create healthy change.

Using the body and its movement as an intervention modality for psychological insight and change.

DMT is the dynamic alignment between mind/body/spirit that manifests itself through creative expression and movement.

DMT is the use of movement in therapeutic (and other) settings to uncover and explore individuals’ stories and emotions.  It offers an inroad to personal experience, and often reveals subconscious corners of the mind that words alone wouldn’t.  It connects the mind, spirit and body, and through it we become more coherent beings.

Dance/Movement Therapy is letting your spirit touch your skin.

We hold moments, stories, deep joy, deep pain, and many other emotions and memories in our bodies. It is through connecting to our bodies that what is hidden begins to emerge so that we can grow towards wholeness. The breadth of information that we keep stored in our bodies is incomprehensible and true beauty.

DMT is an experiential form of psychotherapy where the body-mind connection, creativity and movement are used to facilitate health and healing… [it’s] an integrative approach to helping people meet their goals within a systems perspective.

*Dance/movement therapists use dance and movement as a form of psychotherapy to treat and rehabilitate persons with mental, emotional or physical difficulties.  They integrate a dancer’s special knowledge of body movement and expressive spirit with the healing skills of a counseling, psychotherapy, and rehabilitation.  

DMT is an expressive form of psychotherapy, like Art therapy.  It is a way to help people connect their body and mind and improve their overall well-being.

Dance Movement Therapy is based in the belief that the body and mind are connected. That a shift in one can ultimately create intentional, and hopefully “positive”, shift in the other. As dance movement therapists we start with the body and physical self as opposed to the cognitive self to bring about social, emotional, physical and psychological change.

Your body houses all of your experiences. Dance/movement therapy utilizes the connection of body and mind to access deeper emotions, re-pattern mal-adaptive behaviors, and holistically empower the individual to feel better.

*This definition came from a 2006 Chronicle Guidance Publications, Brief 386

About emilyadannunzio

Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist. Movement Analyst (GL-CMA). Researcher. Dancer. Bartender. Detroit, MI.
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