“You’re a what?”: telling people you’re a dance/movement therapist.


selfie in a bod pod.

If there’s one thing to know about me it’s that I am a passionate person.  I am passionate in all facets of my life, but this is especially true when it comes to dance/movement therapy.  As hopefully evidenced by my blog, I am passionate about the work that I do and what it means to be a dance/movement therapist.  When people meet me I think they sense my enthusiasm and thus are curious about what it is I do for a living.  However, my passion for my work does not necessarily take away from the awkwardness that often ensues after I tell people that I am a dance/movement therapist.

Let me give you an example.

The weather in Chicago has been nice the last few weeks so I’ve tried to be mindful about getting outside more, even if this means simply sitting on my “back porch” (I put this in quotes because my back porch is more like a wooden fire escape and a sad excuse for a porch).  I was doing just that when my new neighbor came outside to introduce himself.  We lightly chatted about his move, about the weather and how his daughter is going to college in the fall- all real lovely stuff.  And then he hits me with it; he drops the bomb,  “What do you do for a living?”

I know my neighbor was simply being polite and making small talk, but this is sort of a loaded question.  Okay, maybe not loaded, but awkward?  A lot of people haven’t heard of dance/movement therapy nor do they know what it is.  And although I know my neighbor was being courteous, does he really care about what it is I do and does he really have time to hear me explain it?  Probably not.  Further, despite my neighbor’s interest or lack of interest, do I really have the words to quickly explain something as complex as dance/movement therapy?   Trust me, quickly explaining dance/movement therapy is no easy task.  And for me, my explanation usually comes out in a convoluted, jumbled mess…

When I laid it on him and told him that I was a dance/movement therapist, and that I worked at a day rehabilitation center for individuals with developmental disabilities (DD), he looked at me, nodded his head and then said, “Well, I know a little about dance and I know a little about therapy.  So, what is dance/movement therapy?”

Let me preface by saying I am not attempting to argue that dance/movement therapy is more complex than other careers, nor am I trying to be condescending.  Yet, every time someone asks me what I do for a living I have that awkward moment of trying to figure out how I am going to explain what it is I do.  Every time I attempt to explain what I do for a living I get a “pull-string” response.  Most times people are honest and most times people are polite.  It’s funny, really, the responses I get when I tell folks I am a dance/movement therapist.   Here are some of those responses:

“Is that, like, therapy for dancers?”

“What is that?”

“I’ve heard of music therapy.”

::blank stare::

“That sounds like fun!” (This one always gets me.)

“Is that kind of like physical therapy?”

“So, you teach people how to dance?”

“Oh, that’s nice.”

“You must have a blast.”

“I’ve never heard of dance…movement…therapy before?” (The individual says it slowly to make sure he/she is saying it properly.)

“Wow, that’s interesting…”

“I could use some dance therapy!”

“What does that entail?”

“So, you dance with people all day long?”

*Thanks to my awesome dance/movement therapist friend for helping me with the list.

About emilyadannunzio

Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist. Movement Analyst (GL-CMA). Researcher. Dancer. Bartender. Detroit, MI.
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4 Responses to “You’re a what?”: telling people you’re a dance/movement therapist.

  1. Pingback: The 11 things I learned in my first year as a professional dance/movement therapist. | Dance.Movement.Therapy.

  2. Thank you, Emily, for this post! INdeed it is very familiar feeling, and yes, these are very familiar reactions:) I often hear also this one: “What kind of dance you use in you therapy? any special type?”

  3. Pingback: Sometimes outsiders get dance/movement therapy better than we do. | Dance.Movement.Therapy.

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