Case study

Dance movement psychotherapist — Kimberly

Kimberly's interest in dance as a creative process and what comes out of a group of people working together led her to train as a dance movement psychotherapist

How did you get your job?

I qualified as a registered dance movement psychotherapist (DMP) after graduating from Goldsmiths, University of London with an MA Dance and Movement Psychotherapy.

I had always had an interest in dance, having taken GCSE, A-level and then a BA dance. I built up a wide range of experience teaching and running dance workshops, often including children with autistic spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Down's syndrome diagnoses.

I was fascinated by how dance traversed communication, how a group of people who didn't know a lot about each other could create a narrative with their bodies that told a story to anyone watching, and how these relationships were formed over the course of a session and the positive effect this had on participants.

During my MA I used my spare time to gain experience with at-risk children and adolescents through volunteer opportunities and working in a children's care home.

Upon graduating I got a job in adult mental health within the forensic sector, supporting youth offenders and adult offenders in understanding their patterns of relating and behaviour. During this time I got more experience working with adolescents and children.

Both experiences helped me secure my current role within the NHS as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) clinician working with looked-after children and children on child protection plans and their families, as well as with families of adoptive children where the children are at risk of being placed in care.

Seeing children being looked after in a safe environment can outweigh the daily challenges.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Without my MA I wouldn't have been able to get this job. The field is difficult to get into without breadth of experience.

The course at Goldsmiths gave me the opportunity to work across a broad range of areas, including adult mental health inpatient units, dementia care and within a special educational needs (SEN) school environment, as part of a holistic therapeutic programme provided for the children.

What are your main work activities?

I work within a newly established service and we have two therapists per case. Working with the attachment relationships means I spend time supporting children in care and on child protection plans to form positive and healthy relationships with the caregivers in their lives. This involves supporting the caregivers and helping them to try and understand and move on from their traumatic experiences.

A typical day involves holding four therapy sessions, whether individually with a child, with carers or parents, or as a family. I participate in team meetings as well as social care-required looked after child reviews and child protection conferences.

I also provide consultation to social care around complex cases and their assessment process.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have developed my role to include a training element. Our team works closely with social services and education sectors, and I've developed training sessions focused on the impact of trauma on attachment.

My ambition is to integrate a structured training programme that could be provided for social care assessment teams.

I would also like to broaden the family work into working with mothers and babies.

What are the most enjoyable and challenging parts of your job?

The job as a whole is very challenging due to the often sensitive, and difficult subject matter of the abusive experiences the children and adults have been part of.

However, seeing a positive impact from the work of the team and children being looked after in a safe environment can outweigh the daily challenges. Good team relationships and regular supervision, individual and team, are key.

One of the most positive things about working in this sector is that the complexity of the work means you're always challenged to develop theoretically and personally. The NHS CAMHS sector constantly strives to work on the most current evidence base, so being part of that means there's lots of opportunities to see research in action, be part of it and develop personally and as a team.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

When starting your training, be open to discovering, exploring and questioning. Be curious with yourself and understand your own process and experiences, as you can't understand what you're asking others to do in your care if you can't do this yourself.

The challenges on the course begin to prepare you for the challenges of the role, so try to be authentic in your own understanding.

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