I’m interested in studying dance movement therapy via a Masters programs overseas. Will I be able to qualify in Australia with an overseas Masters degree?
A Masters degree from an overseas university is likely to help you to meet the requirements for Professional Membership of the DTAA (see professional membership page). However, as dance movement therapy is not a government recognised or regulated profession in Australia, the DTAA’s recognition of the qualification is only one aspect of recognition that you might need in order to practice professionally, depending on the context of your work.
Who is recognised as a dance movement therapist in Australasia?
The professional association for dance movement therapy in Australasia, the Dance Movement Therapy Association Australasia (DTAA), offers recognition of eligibility for the title of ‘dance movement therapist’. Two categories of professionals are recognised as being entitled to call themselves ‘dance movement therapist’: Professional Member or Professional Member (Provisional). However, dance movement therapy is a profession not yet regulated by government in Australia, so there is no legal mandate about the use of the term ‘dance movement therapist’ or ‘dance movement therapy’.
A Professional Member is a fully qualified dance movement therapist, who is recognized by the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) which is an umbrella organization of which DTAA is a Member Association. Professional Member (Provisional) is a member who has completed DMT training including 10 hours of supervision relating to at least 40 hours of client contact and who is working towards accumulating hours of supervised practice for Professional Membership. Both Professional Members and Professional Members (Provisional) are eligible to apply to be listed on the PACFA National Register. (See PACFA website for details).
The Associate Member category includes new graduates of DMT and other professionals, (including dance teachers, arts therapists, body therapists or allied health professionals), who use dance therapeutically in their practice but do not seek to have their work formally recognised as dance movement therapy.
A further level of membership, General Member, is open to students and anyone with an interest in dance movement therapy. Becoming a General Member does not entitle a person to use dance therapeutically or call themselves a dance movement therapist.
Application forms for each of these categories can be accessed on the membership page. See levels of Membership on our membership page.
The Dance Movement Therapy Association Australasia (DTAA), that represents the profession, offers clear guidelines for professional practice. These include a Code of Ethics and standards aligned with the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA). Like most other health related professions, high standards of professional training, experience and ongoing professional development are expected. The DTAA’s Professional Membership Committee sets standards for professional practice and manages approval of membership applications.
Many professionals offer dance experiences that provide a range of beneficial outcomes for participants. This may include improved health and well-being of individuals, or increased community or social inclusion. While acknowledging the potential value of this work, the DTAA does not recognise it as ‘dance movement therapy’ or the professional as a ‘dance movement therapist’, unless the person has current membership status as a Professional Member DTAA, or as Professional Member (Provisional).
How can I get training in dance movement therapy in Australia or New Zealand?
There are limited training options in Australia and New Zealand at the present time. Please check the training information page on the website for information about current courses.
Other people travel overseas to study. Dance movement therapy training programs recognised in other countries are usually recognised by the DTAA.
Is there a professional association for dance movement therapy in Australasia?
The (DTAA) Dance Movement Therapy Association is the only professional association for dance movement therapy in Australasia. It was formally established as an incorporated association in 1994. However, it built on a decade of work of the Dance Therapy Working Party, a formal committee of Ausdance, the national peak body for dance in Australia. The DTAA achieved recognition as a member organisation of PACFA, the national federation of psychotherapy and counselling associations, in 2004. It has members in every state and territory in Australia, as well as New Zealand, many countries in Asia, Europe, USA and other countries. The DTAA enjoys ongoing professional collaboration with professional associations for dance movement therapy in other parts of the world, particularly with the two longest established, the ADTA (the American Dance Therapy Association) and ADMPUK (Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK).
The DTAA welcomes membership from anyone who has an interest in dance movement therapy, with four levels of membership indicating professional training and experience.
What background do I need to become a dance therapist?
To become a dance movement therapist, you’re best to have a background in related fields such as allied health or behavioural sciences (including psychology, counselling, social work, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, education, etc.) as well as a strong background in dance forms that include improvisation. For specific pre-requisites of dance movement therapy training programs, please contact the training organisations directly. More details available from our Training page.
How do dance movement therapists gain employment?
People who obtain employment as dance movement therapists in Australia and New Zealand most often ‘make’ the work themselves, either by approaching organisations offering to lead programs, or setting up their own programs, or establishing a DMT program within another area of expertise. For example, school teachers working in special schools in DMT programs, social workers who offer DMT as part of their overall responsibilities with families in crisis, physiotherapists who offer DMT as part of a rehabilitation program, aged care workers who offer DMT activities in nursing homes. Often this develops from a volunteer placement or internship during DMT studies. The DTAA’s members’ e-news often has advertisements for paid or volunteer DMT positions, but positions for dance movement therapists are very rarely advertised in other publications in Australia.
To learn about some individual DMT professional journeys please click on the links below. These DMTs participated in a project called DMT Snapshots in which they were interviewed by Ezme Webb and Tessa Hens in 2016. Their short interviews were posted on the DTAA Facebook Group Page so DMTs were able to learn about each other’s professional challenges, successes and development.
How are dance movement therapy sessions carried out and what are clients actually instructed to do? Are there different steps during the session?
Dance movement therapy sessions are developed specifically to suit clients and program goals, so there is no formula to the way they are run nor specific steps that participants are taught. There are many references that include this kind of information, including most of the books that DTAA sells written by Australian dance movement therapists and available from our Publications page.
YouTube has quite a few short films of dance movement therapy in action. To be sure that what you are seeing there is really dance movement therapy, check that the person who is leading a group is a qualified dance movement therapist. This is a good one from the American Dance Therapy Association that discusses the history of dance movement therapy.
How can I get experience or undertake a placement with a dance movement therapist?
Many dance movement therapists welcome volunteers and students on placement. The best place to start is the list of Professional and Associate members where you can contact anyone whose interests and location align with yours. Otherwise, you could write a short paragraph for our monthly e-bulletin with your request and this might help you get connected with the right person. See our Bulletin page.
The DTAA is a professional association for dance movement therapists, so we do not run dance movement therapy programs ourselves.
We do run many professional development activities that are open to the public who want to learn more about dance movement therapy. Information about these is usually available from our website or you could sign up for our regular e-bulletin on our home page.
Qualities an employer may seek in a dance movement therapist:
- Strong communication skills that allow you to both connect with your clients/patients/participants in meaningful ways and also to support your workplace to understand just what dance therapy is and what its uses and benefits are.
- A strong understanding of dance movement therapy’s history and theories to underpin your work and allow you to reflect and evaluate your work with your clients regularly and critically.
- The ability to work in a range of professional settings. Dance movement therapy is used in many settings so it is often required of a dance movement therapist to understand and work within the culture and workplace policies of different settings for example in hospitals, schools, counselling centres. You will have to adhere to their paperwork trails and policies, work with other professionals and understand the needs and wants of your work place stakeholders.
- A strong working knowledge of the population you are working with. For example if you are working in disability, that you have a sound knowledge of the sector and of specific conditions such as Autism, Down Syndrome, etc. Many dance movement therapists have dual qualifications, for example physiotherapy, nursing, teaching, counselling alongside DMT qualifications.
- Flexibility – the ability to think and adapt on the spot. Those you are working with may have complex needs and may be exploring complex issues so you need to be able to respond to them in the moment and meet them where they are.
- Creativity – a creative approach to your therapy and movement work will support your clients’ engagement in the therapeutic process.
- Empathy- to work well as a therapist you will need to be able to find ways to connect with your clients to support their therapeutic journeys. You will need to try to understand what their concerns and therapeutic needs are and work with them in a way that ensures they feel safe and comfortable.
- Proactive approach to professional development – As a therapist you will need to continually update your skills whether that is by attending regular supervision sessions, attending professional workshops and lectures, reading or upskilling in relation to the specific population you work with. Being connected to professional associations assists in maintaining professional development.
- Body awareness and self-awareness – A dance movement therapist observes the body and movement of those they work with in order to use movement, often shared movement, as a vehicle for therapeutic intervention or work. It therefore follows that in order to hold and guide a therapeutic process the dance movement therapist must have a strong understanding of their own sense of self and the way this inhabits their own body and movement. Regular supervision is a vital tool for reflecting on therapeutic processes and maintaining self-awareness.
Student requests for information
The DTAA is unable to respond to school students’ request for information about dance movement therapy. However, this website includes much information that might answer relevant questions.
Also, the Association’s journal has much information available on-line, including contents, author bios and abstracts of all articles published which might also be useful. Journal articles are available for sale to non-members.