If 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.
Most 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.
Dance 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.
Dance 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."