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Dance Therapist  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotIf you have a healthy dose of compassion, a whole lot of patience and a true love of dance, a career as a dance therapist may be for you.

Dance therapy is a form of psychotherapy, which helps people who have social or emotional problems integrate into society.

dotMost dance therapists say their jobs use movement as a medium of change, which helps people pinpoint feelings and conflicts. These feelings and conflicts are then revealed, released and transformed so the person can heal.

Dance therapy is usually done one on one. However, it may also be taught in larger groups of people. This helps the group learn how to deal with others, communicate and make friends through dance and movement.

"It's absolutely, basically important to integrate the body and the mind together," says Joanabbey Sack, a dance therapist. "It creates confidence and turns the body into a communicative, expressive tool. It then helps us to understand each other and ourselves.

"The best thing about dance therapy and movement as a communication tool, though, is it's international," Sack adds. "We all have a body, we all use our bodies, so it's a natural starting point to relate and bond with anyone."

Denny Balish-LaSaine is a dance therapist in Oak Park, Illinois. He agrees that dance therapy is a communication tool. "Through body action, the most basic form of communication, a dialog emerges," he says. "That dialog tells of an individual's relationship to self, others and the environment."

Balish-LaSaine also says that dance therapy connects the body and the mind, creating a unifying experience within a supportive social context.

dotDance therapists can be found working in the rehabilitation areas of hospitals, as well as in private dance therapy centers. However, this is rare. Most dance therapists work independently, running their own dance therapy businesses. Running a business can be a huge time commitment, and it can be stressful.

Most dance therapists who own their own businesses work 60-hour weeks. Being independent, many dance therapists don't get the benefits, like medical and dental plans, that would be available through a job in a hospital. Plus, dance therapists may have to invest a lot of money into the business before they see results.

dotDance therapists may deal with people who are manic depressive, paranoid or physically and mentally disabled, and this tends to drain a person's energy. This career requires incredible patience and emotional strength. Dance therapists have to remember to take care of themselves so they don't burn out.

"I have to schedule my own breaks during the working day," says Monique Haziza, a movement therapist. "If I don't, those times get filled up with clients, and by the end of the day I am exhausted."

At a Glance

Use dance to help people deal with physical or emotional problems

  • Most dance therapists own their own businesses
  • Dance therapy can be a stressful career -- be careful not to burn out
  • Training in dance, kinesiology and anatomy is recommended