When you think of dance, what comes to mind? You probably picture something from an entertainment perspective – maybe dancers in TV shows, movies, or musicals? Perhaps you think back to that dance class from childhood or the awkward middle school dance that your parents made you go to? Seems about right. Did you ever think that dancing or choreographed body movement could be a type of therapy, though? Neither did most people, but it is – and an effective one!
We are very fortunate to have a wonderful Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist – Julia – on our team to spread the word about dance therapy! Julia took some time to explain how she started her journey into this type of therapy, what it actually entails, and how it is very effective for the students she supports:
“I started dancing at the age of three, but I never could have imagined that it would form the basis of my career. When I was young, I wanted to be an actress. As I grew up, that transitioned to a lawyer, then an economist. I briefly considered psychotherapy, but ultimately when I began my freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, it was with a major of “UNDECLARED.” Even after deciding to major in anthropology, I wasn’t sure what that would mean for my career. I didn’t have any expectations of being an anthropologist. But I knew that I was drawn to working with people. To understanding people. And most of all, to advocating for and helping people.
Anthropology gave me a solid foundation in studying people through the macro perspective of culture. During my coursework, I became interested in the anthropology of medicine. I studied the Western biomedical model as a cultural construct, and also took courses in alternative medicine and the use of the arts in healing practices. The latter course was taught by a dance/movement therapist, who eventually became my thesis advisor. Through her mentorship, I began to delve into the world of dance/movement therapy (DMT) more specifically. I recalled how creative expression through dance had played such a formative role in my development and what a positive outlet it was for me. Much to my surprise, dance became my pathway to a helping profession. So, I attended Drexel University’s Creative Arts Therapy Master’s program to pursue my career in DMT.
Over the years, I have worked with youth and adolescents with emotional and behavioral needs in partial programs, with adults in inpatient psychiatric programs, with children with cerebral palsy, and with families in the foster care system. My practice focuses on trauma-informed care and social justice issues. This background prepared me well to address the diverse needs of students in the public school district, where I now provide DMT services for children from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual. I use both verbal and movement interventions in group and individual sessions with students who may benefit from additional emotional and behavioral support.
What exactly does that look like? The sessions may focus on goals ranging from self-esteem, social skills, and anxiety to spatial awareness, executive functioning, and emotional regulation. Each session is uniquely tailored based on my assessment of the needs of the individuals in the moment and the overall goals of the group. Sometimes this might be a gross motor movement game with kindergartners to improve impulse control. Alternatively, it might be creating symbolic gestures to encourage middle schoolers to express themselves, or even a conversation with high school students to increase their understanding of how nonverbal cues from their body can assist them in noticing, understanding, and managing their emotions.
In my position, I am fortunate to collaborate with a staff of teachers, social workers, related service providers, and administrators to provide skill-building experiences for students to help promote their success. Every day, my mission is the same: bring a little extra joy, acceptance, and support to my students.
Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist”
Julia started working with Sunbelt this summer after connecting with Catheryne, a Senior Recruiter on our Schools Team. Julia currently provides services to students at a wonderful district we partner with in Virginia. Catheryne, a Florida native, has been with Sunbelt for 5 years and counting. She loves her job more and more each day because of wonderful clinicians like Julia, who teach us about the importance of individualized and innovative therapy for kids in need.
We aren’t limited to having only traditional therapy positions! Find your next amazing venture with Sunbelt and check out our latest school therapy opportunities from all different specialties here.