At Paradigm Malibu, we offer teen Dance/Movement Therapy as one of our Expressive Arts Therapy programs. The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy as, “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.” Dance/Movement Therapy is essentially based around the premise that the body, mind, and spirit is connected, and therefore, the movement of the body can be used as a therapeutic technique to win access to the mind and/or a teen’s emotional experience. Therefore, as the core foundation of dance, body movement provides both the means for evaluation and assessment, as well as the technique for intervention within dance/movement therapy. We find that it provides a unique, specialized therapeutic approach that works very well for some adolescents, especially in its ability to help teens open up and engage in treatment in a more relaxed, indirect way. When used in conjunction with other treatment modalities, such as Talk Therapy and Behavioral Therapy sessions, Dance/Movement therapy can work to access, initiate, and further the work and progress made within the more talk-based sessions. Because of this, we used Dance/Movement Therapy as one of our creative treatment options, in order to help create and implement the most individualized and holistic treatment plans possible.
It’s understandable that from the sounds of it, teen Dance/Movement Therapy might make some teens, who love to dance, excited, while also sounding like torture to other teens, who don’t. It’s important to note that Dance/Movement Therapy sessions are not mandatory times when teens are coerced into getting up and performing dance moves. Dance/Movement Therapy is much more subtle and simple than that. First of all, at Paradigm Malibu, all Dance/Movement Therapy participation is both voluntary and collaborative. Secondly, all of our Dance/Movement Therapy sessions are led by a certified Dance/Movement therapist, and are created and implemented according to the therapist’s great sensitivity and insight in making the experience comfortable, organic, and yet also profound.
Essentially, Dance/Movement Therapy helps teens gain access to, and clarity on, their mental and emotional experiences through means of the ways they dance and/or move. Like most of the other Expressive Arts Therapies, it’s more of an indirect approach of working with teens to address their thoughts, feelings, and symptoms, in this case by means of observing, implementing, and reflecting upon the teens’ movements. However, it’s important to note that the therapy itself is not based upon the teens’ ability to dance or perform a certain movement well, but rather, in the evaluation and engagement of the process itself.
Teen Dance/Movement Therapy is used in a number of settings and contexts throughout the country and used to treat a number of different symptoms of both Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders. At Paradigm Malibu, teens may participate in Dance/Movement Therapy for a wide variety of needs, interests, and/or goals that are part of their larger treatment program, including more classical methods of talk-based therapies. Dance/Movement Therapy can help adolescents in a number of different ways, including but not limited to helping them: learn effective communication techniques; improve self-esteem; improve body image; expand and gain awareness of their movement patterns; gain insight to their thought patterns and/or belief systems; gain relief from feelings of stress and/or anxiety; and address relational struggles. And, like many other Expressive Arts Therapies, Dance/Movement Therapy is often a very helpful option for adolescents that have a difficult time expressing their thoughts and feelings verbally, and/or those who are intimidated by or resistant to treatment.