Our focus this month has been on health/wellness and injury, and today we have Rosana Hernandez with us to talk about the field of dance therapy…
by Rosana Hernandez, MS, R-DMT
1) What exactly is dance therapy?
Dance/movement therapy is the magical and natural beauty of dance juxtaposed with its profound therapeutic value. The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process which furthers the emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual.”
Dance/movement therapy focuses on the movement behavior as it emerges in the therapeutic relationship. Movement is the primary means of assessment and intervention. Through the creative process of dance, patients are challenged to trust the present and to welcome questions. To navigate unknown paths and to recognize their fears and resistances that hinders them from expressing themselves genuinely. Dance/movement infuses hope by providing a listening ear through movement and a symbolic outlet of expression for physical and emotional needs. Dance/movement therapy is a platform for wholeness, reconciliation and corrective experiences.
2) How does one become a dance therapist?
The dance/movement therapy credential is obtained at the graduate level. After the completion of an ADTA Approved Graduate Program or the Alternate Route and acceptance by the Dance/Movement Therapy Certification Board, the Registered Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT) credential is rewarded. R-DMT is the first level of entry in the profession. With additional requirements and supervision experience, the Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist (BC-DMT) is attained. BC-DMT is the advanced level of the dance/movement therapy practice. BC-DMT can engage in private practice and provide training and supervision in dance/movement therapy. The American Dance Therapy Association website has a list of ADTA Approved Graduate Programs and Alternate Route guidelines (www.adta.org).
3) Where do dance therapists work?
Dance/movement therapists work in a variety of settings including nursing homes, schools, psychiatric, rehabilitation and medical facilities, drug treatment centers, counseling and crises centers, and alternative health care centers.
4) How did you become involved in this field?
My passion has always been dance. Through dance, I continuously find myself and can articulate my thoughts, feelings and ideals without fears or restrictions. In the empty space of my room, I have experienced the freedom, grace and release of dancing my joy, sadness, vigor and disappointments. In moving with others, I have gained the cooperative ability to lead and to follow, to initiate and wait for movement responses. Hence, in my work with children as a classroom aide at the Child Development Center in Queens College, I realized how much I enjoyed leading the music section of the day. I was able to engage the children to actively and affectively participate during music/movement time. I discovered that I could make a positive influence in a child’s life by exploring with them the gift of dance. Since then I haven’t stopped seeking how dance/movement experiences plow seeds of resilience.
5) What are you currently doing in the field?
I work at John Street School, as a dance/movement therapist working with children with Autism, Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy from the grades of kindergarten to sixth grade. I also work at the Child Development Center at Queens College, providing creative movement sessions for normal functioning children from the ages of 2.6-10 yrs old, whom some have behavioral and emotional problems. In my work with children, they accumulate knowledge of their own capacities and interests while recognizing essential relational elements. Through movement experiences of tolerance and acceptance, they relate with another without the pressure of saying the right word. They experience someone entering their world first, trying to see things through their eyes and relate at their level. In return, there’s a willingness to keep on connecting through a gesture, a song or a movement.
In collaboration with other dance/movement therapists, I will be traveling to Cuba in March. We will learn about the culture and history of dance in Cuba and their dance therapy approach of Psicoballet. In exchange, we will share American Dance Therapy approaches with our Cuban colleagues. Since I am highly interested in creating cross-cultural dialogues and generating research on the therapeutic benefits of dances of African origin in Latin America and the Caribbean, I am very excited for this opportunity to enrich my multicultural competence as a mental health professional.
6) What is the most challenging/rewarding part of your job?
For me, the most challenging and rewarding part of being a dance/movement therapist go hand in hand. There’s a big misconception that dance/movement therapy is all fun and games. That it’s not really therapy since it “looks” effortless. In reality, there’s a lot to attend to in a session: group dynamics, music selections, mirroring movement, the development of metaphors, being fully present, etc. However, the misconception is minimal to the powerful feeling of sincerely connecting with another through kinesthetic empathy, and enabling cohesion and belongingness. The exhilarating part of being a dance therapist is that you don’t know how you are going to feel after every session, because you have no certainty of what’s going to happen in a session. Sometimes I’m energetic, inspired, other times lost and confused. Regardless of how I feel at the end of a session, I have faith that the work is similar to a grain of salt that is heading somewhere.