This morning as my husband and I were walking, I was talking about the daily frustration of having to correct people's misconceptions about what dance movement therapy is. Here are a couple of for-instances:
I was at a party with my cousin, who's 5 days older than I. We've known each other our whole lives. She was a nurse, who ended up working in psych. She had the opportunity to lead groups and work with expressive therapists, but never with a dance movement therapist. I've been a dance movement therapist my whole adult life. Lately, my cousin has become the Energizer Bunny - maybe it's all the zumba classes that she's taking. She was standing and dancing to music that didn't particularly appeal to me, so I remained seated. She suddenly announced that she should have been a dance therapist. When I expressed surprise, she asked me "Why? You think you're the only one who can dance?" I was rather stunned. I responded, "No. I think that everyone can dance. That's why I'm a dance therapist." Her assumption seems to have been that dancing on the dance floor and having experience in mental health were proof that she would be a good dance therapist. It apparently never occured to her that there was much more to dance movement therapy than that. That one has to have tremendous expressive range so that one can meet each person at their level. That one must be able to mirror, attune, have excellent movement observation skills, be spontaneous, know when to join and when to set limits. When to move and when to be still. When to focus on body image and when to focus on imagery. And so on.
The next story comes from a student whom I supervise. She is interning at a facility with adults with neurodegenerative disorders. One adult new to the program has been attending several of her dance therapy groups each week. After a care planning meeting, a social worker approached the intern and told her that the team had decided that this woman was "in denial" and that she was attending the dance therapy groups to maintain her denial and that she should attend no more than one, and possibly no dance therapy groups a week. The intern was quite shocked. So was I when she told me.
Apparently, the social worker pictures this woman "dancing" and "pretending that she can dance". It seems she is unaware that in the very act of dancing, this woman is coming up against her limitations. She is using her body. How could it be otherwise? She is courageously facing her losses in a group where she is supported and empowered to be all that she can be despite those losses.
For 35 years I have been explaining to people what dance movement therapy is and what it isn't. I hope to continue explaining it for the next 35 years, but it does get tiresome.