Reflecting on the unclear path to dance/movement therapy.

Lately I’ve received a bout of e-mails and Facebook messages inquiring about my path in becoming a dance/movement therapist.  People are wondering what steps I took in my journey in pursuing a career in dance/movement therapy (DMT) and what my life looks like now as a professional dance/movement therapist.  What I’m gathering is that said individuals are interested in pursuing a path in DMT but are unsure of what this path looks like.  They want to check-in with someone who has traveled the path before them and make sure it’s worth it.  I don’t blame them because I felt the same exact way when I started.  The path in pursuing DMT can seem unclear.

Although the trajectory to becoming a dance/movement therapist is linear (bachelor’s degree, graduate degree, obtaining a job), the path is often muddled by looming questions.  I can sense that the individuals who reach out to me know and understand the healing power of dance, but they are curious about how that looks as a dance/movement therapist.  When individuals reach out to me they often ask about whether I was able to find a job, am I able to financially support myself with my current position and clarification about the definition of DMT.  The answer to those questions being yes, sort of and good question!  Individuals also ask me about my training and education before I attended one of the seven accredited DMT programs.  What did I study?  How much dance experience do I have and in what type of dance?

Although I’ve spoken about my path to DMT before, I’ll take a moment to quickly go over it again.  I grew up dancing in the neighborhood dance studio and in a creative arts program in high school.  I majored in dance for my Bachelor’s degree and minored in psychology and social work.  Between undergraduate and my graduate studies I took a year off to teach dance and work in a rehabilitation home for individuals with traumatic brain injuries.  I attended Columbia College Chicago’s DMT program, and once I finished my thesis I landed a job where I was once an intern… and the rest is history.

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Upper Peninsula, Michigan.

Before all of that, though, I too sat in a place of unknowing.  I had heard about DMT during high school and revisited it in my undergraduate studies.  During my second year of college I decided and committed to pursuing a path in DMT.  It was my calling so to speak.  This decision came with a lot of self-doubt and, unfortunately, a lot of criticism from other people.  I knew I was signing up for a less than glamorous salary when becoming a dance/movement therapist and I had to continuously defend my choice to pursue the field (to people who didn’t matter, of course, because if they did matter then they supported me in my decision).  Oftentimes I proclaimed to myself, “Pursue a career in Social Work!” or,  “Move to New York after college to dance.”  I didn’t do either of those things, though, because pursuing a traditional social work/counseling position or attempting to dance professionally didn’t feel like enough- it didn’t feel right.  Instead, I kept hacking along the path to DMT.

The path to becoming a dance/movement therapist isn’t as much an up-hill battle as I may or may not be making it seem.  For my own journey, I did one thing at a time (which for those that know me personally, may seem hard to believe).  I declared a major in Dance.  I then researched the graduate schools that offered DMT programs and figured out what courses I needed to complete to have a shot at being accepted.  When I was done with undergrad, I took some time off and got jobs in like-minded professions.  I applied to graduate schools, emphasis on schools.  Once I got to graduate school, I stuck my nose in the books and worked hard at my internship, which then turned into an employment opportunity.  At each part of my journey I worked hard at what I was doing in the present moment in order to prepare for the next step in my path.

I also think trust in my own passion for DMT was imperative to motivating me throughout my journey.  Yes, I didn’t know exactly what life would look like when I first started out and my life doesn’t look like at all as I had planned.  That’s a good thing.  I just kept trusting that dance is a powerful thing.  I just kept chugging along while making sure my path still spoke my truth as an individual.  Everything else sort of fell into place. So, for those individuals who are curious about pursuing the path to DMT, I encourage you to research, do what feels right  and to follow your truth.  Although it feels unclear at the start, I promise you it is worth it in the end.

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About emilyadannunzio

Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist. Movement Analyst (GL-CMA). Researcher. Dancer. Bartender. Detroit, MI.
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7 Responses to Reflecting on the unclear path to dance/movement therapy.

  1. I’m another one of those undergrads who is vaguely interested in DMT, but it seems difficult to find opportunities get some experience in the field before committing to a full-time program. Do you have any suggestions on that front? (I do get why most therapists wouldn’t want untrained interns hanging around their practice, it just makes it harder to know if this is something I want to pursue!)

    But thanks for sharing your experiences–I find them really helpful 🙂

    • Hi Nadia (making an educated guess there…),
      Thanks for reading and commentating on my blog. In response to your question about gaining DMT experience …. I would suggest searching the ADTA directory (http://www.adta.org/Find_a_DMT) to find a practitioner near you and reach out to them via e-mail. You might be surprised who you find and his/her willingness to let you visit. Also, is there way to pose it as a project for your current coursework/senior project? If you are outside of the US, there are international dance therapy association websites which I assume have similar directories. If this isn’t possible, the next best bet is to search dance/movement therapy via Youtube , listen to the webinars offered by the ADTA and read journal articles about the topic to get familiar with the work.

      I hope that helps… good luck in your journey!

  2. Jeannine says:

    I love this. It’s so clear, real and inspiring to me 🙂 (and also helpful to anyone looking into DMT).

  3. This was fantastic! I tell future DMT’s the same thing. It’s amazing to me how much curiosity is out there. And how we all have our doubts. Just have to follow our intuition. Thank you for this piece!

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