Case study

Freelance dance movement psychotherapist — Shirley Brocklehurst

Shirley uses dance movement psychotherapy to help clients with mental health conditions on their journey to recovery, enabling them to take their place in the community

How did you get your job?

I was already a freelance practitioner before training as a dance movement psychotherapist (DMP).

DMP work came through my existing network of contacts and the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK (ADMP UK), our professional organisation.

I took the MA in Dance Movement Psychotherapy at Dance Voice in Bristol (accredited by Canterbury Christchurch University) in order to practise as a DMP.

I also work as a freelance dance teacher and exercise professional.

When you get those 'golden moments' in therapy, it's the best job in the world

What are your main work activities?

When you get those 'golden moments' in therapy, it's the best job in the world

First thing in the morning I check my emails and messages. Then I check my diary and make a note of everything I will need for the day. I load the car with the props and equipment I will need and drive to my first group.

I sign in and check with the nurse in charge to find out which staff member will be my support worker and which service users to expect in the group. Then I go and set up the room.

When the group is assembled, we gather into a circle to check in and make a plan for the session - what themes the group want to explore, what music and props to use. At the end of the session we come back to the circle to feed back and check out. I pack up my props and equipment and drive to the next group.

I usually do a group in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Most evenings I teach a dance or exercise class. When I get home I unload the car and store away the props and equipment, put electronic equipment on charge and write up my notes.

One day a week I reserve for administration, bookkeeping and marketing as well as class preparation.

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

I am continually developing my practice to meet the needs of service users. It now includes anxiety management, relaxation techniques, mindfulness and body-oriented psychotherapy, alongside the key concepts of kinaesthetic empathy and embodied emotion.

My ambition is to provide services which healthcare professionals can refer clients to and to this end I am applying for private practice registration.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy being able to use movement in all its forms. I also enjoy the contact with service users, support workers and healthcare colleagues.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Mental health hospitals can be tough places to work and some service users' behaviour can sometimes be demanding.

Tips for getting into dance movement psychotherapy

If you feel passionate about this work - go for it. When you get those 'golden moments' in therapy, it's the best job in the world.

Be prepared, though, to create your own opportunities. I live in the North West and although I have seen DMP posts advertised in the south and west, this is not the case here.

I work hard to promote not only my practice, but the profession in general. Fortunately, I have a marketing background and I'm used to being freelance and running my own business.

Find out more

See what is on offer at the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK (ADMP UK)