Dance Movement Therapist

The Job and What's Involved

Dance movement therapists (DMTs) help people deal with a wide range of emotional, social, psychological and physical issues through the use of movement and dance.

As a DMT, you would typically work with clients to help them express their feelings, develop social confidence and increase body awareness. Your day-to-day work would involve observing your clients' movements, planning individual therapy sessions (including adapting clients' movement patterns), and creating a safe environment to promote communication.

You would work with people of all ages, individually and in groups. Your clients will come to you for a variety of reasons, for example:

  • To improve their self-esteem, self awareness and perception of their body image.
  • To develop effective communication skills.
  • To gain insights into their patterns of behaviour.
  • To create coping strategies and new ways to manage their lives.

This form of therapy is based on the belief that movement reflects a person's pattern of thinking and feeling. Some of your clients may use therapy sessions simply for their own personal growth. However, you may also work with people recovering from abuse or violence, and those living with difficulties surrounding eating disorders, autism, or severe emotional problems.

You could work in a variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation units, schools and private practice. The work can be physically and emotionally demanding.

Your working hours would usually be between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Occasionally you may need to cover weekends and evenings. Many therapists work on a sessional basis and there are very few full-time positions.

DMTs may earn around £20,000 to £30,000 a year.

Senior therapists working in the NHS may earn between £39,000 and £46,000 a year.

Self-employed or sessional therapists can charge between £25 and £50 an hour.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You could work with a range of public and voluntary organisations, including hospitals, care homes, schools for children with special needs, prisons and units for young offenders.

You may be able to use the contacts you made during your postgraduate clinical placement to help you secure your first paid post.

Education and Training

You will need a postgraduate qualification recognised by the Association of Dance Movement Psychotherapists (ADMPUK) before you can start work as a Dance Movement Therapist (DMT).

To get on to a postgraduate course, you will need a degree in a relevant subject (such as dance, performing arts, psychology, medicine or nursing) or an equivalent professional qualification. Check with course providers for exact entry details, because you may also be considered if you have extensive relevant experience .

You will also usually need:

Around 2 years' relevant work experience (paid or unpaid), for example leading a creative or movement group.

A background in at least one dance or movement form, and some experience in a variety of forms.

The ability to improvise and use movement to relate and communicate.

Check the Association of Dance Movement Psychotherapists website for details of alternative entry routes and a list of accredited courses.

During a course, you will study subjects such as anatomy, psychology, psychotherapy and movement observation. You will also have personal therapy throughout the programme. Courses take at least two years to complete and will usually include a minimum of 200 hours' direct client contact and 100 hours of clinical supervision.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Once you are working as a dance movement therapist, you can pursue opportunities for further research, gain a range of clinical experiences and continue with your own personal therapy.

You could go on to work towards Senior Registered Dance Movement Therapist (Senior RDMT) status. This would allow you to work in private practice, teach DMT, provide clinical supervision to less experienced colleagues and act as a consultant.

Throughout your career, you will need to keep up to date with the latest research, theory and practice within dance and movement therapy. The ADMPUK will also expect you to complete around 24 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) activity a year. Check their website for details of opportunities.

The ADMPUK applied to the Health Professions Council (HPC) for statutory regulation of DMTs. The HPC have recommended this action to the Department of Health. It is unclear at this stage how or if this will affect the education and training of DMTs. Check with the ADMPUK and the HCPC website for further information.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A dance movement therapist needs:

  • Creativity and a good imagination.
  • Experience in at least one form of dance and movement.
  • The ability to inspire and motivate clients.
  • Emotional stability and resilience to work with clients experiencing mental or physical health issues.
  • Excellent communication skills and the ability to listen.
  • Good levels of physical fitness.
  • An interest in the arts, health, healing and complementary therapies.
  • Strong powers of observation.
  • An understanding of psychology, anatomy and physiology.

Your Long Term Prospects

With at least two years' experience and Senior Registered Dance Movement Therapist (Senior RDMT) status, you could set up in private practice or work on a self-employed, freelance basis. To succeed, you will need to network, create contacts with therapists in other fields, promote your services to the wider community and build a solid reputation, which will take time to achieve.

Opportunities are increasing in the NHS, and with around five years' experience you could progress to Head of Arts Psychotherapy, overseeing other therapists working with acute and community-based clients.

Get Further Information

Association of Dance Movement Psychotherapists (ADMPUK),
32 Meadfoot Lane, Torquay TQ1 2BW

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC),
Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 0845 300 6184

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