If you enjoy movement and dance and want to help make a difference to people's lives, this could be the career for you

As a dance movement psychotherapist (DMP), you'll use movement and dance to enable personal, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, physical and social integration and development.

You'll support a broad range of individuals of all ages, including those with:

  • emotional or mental health needs
  • physical disabilities
  • addiction or substance abuse problems
  • personal development needs.

Based on the principle that movement reflects an individual's thoughts and feelings, you'll acknowledge and support clients' movements, encouraging the development of new movement patterns and emotional experiences.

Responsibilities

As a dance movement therapist, you'll need to:

  • observe your clients' physical movement to assess their behavioural, cognitive or emotional state
  • deliver therapy sessions with a variety of clients individually or in groups
  • plan a series of movement sessions around a particular client or client group's requirements
  • help clients overcome physical, personal and emotional difficulties through the medium of movement
  • create a safe environment in which feelings can be contained, acknowledged and communicated
  • work through areas of personal conflict by interacting with your clients, either individually or in groups
  • identify appropriate music resources and create props for sessions
  • encourage your clients to interact positively with each other, using role play and other techniques
  • write reports, update client records and complete general administrative work
  • attend clinical supervision sessions and, in some cases, provide clinical supervision to other therapists
  • liaise with colleagues and other professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • share relevant information about your clients with colleagues and relatives, while adhering to ethical codes and rules of confidentiality.

Salary

  • Salaries of DMPs working in the NHS are typically covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) Pay Rates. Starting salaries are usually paid at band 6 (£26,302 to £35,225) and can rise to £40,028 to £48,034 (band 8a) for principal therapists.
  • Salaries outside the NHS can vary depending on your employer, working hours, length of contract, clinical responsibility and individual skills and experience.
  • Payment for sessional work can range from £25 to £60 an hour. Sessions generally last two hours, including the preparation and note taking.

Earnings vary considerably with experience and according to the setting you work in, but those taking on managerial responsibilities or teaching roles should expect to be paid more.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Your working hours will depend on your employer. For example, you'll work usual office hours in the NHS, but in private practice your hours may be more flexible to fit round your clients' and your own needs. This can include evening and weekend work.

There are opportunities for part-time and portfolio work, for example combining NHS work, private practice and teaching.

Career breaks are possible as long as you keep up to date with developments in the profession.

What to expect

  • Most sessions with individuals and groups take place in residential or nursing homes, hospitals, schools and specialist or community centres. Sessions may occasionally take place in private outdoor spaces or at your client's home.
  • The majority of dance movement psychotherapists are female, and male entrants are encouraged to join the profession.
  • Many therapists combine a number of part-time posts and take on additional part-time work in related roles, such as dance teaching or exercise classes.
  • The work can be physically and emotionally demanding.
  • Travel between appointments is common and you may need to travel between different employers during the week.

Qualifications

You'll need a Masters degree in dance movement psychotherapy recognised by the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK (ADMP UK) to work as a DMP. Full and part-time Masters courses are offered by:

To get a place on a course you'll need a relevant undergraduate degree, an equivalent professional qualification or extensive experience in a related field.

Relevant degree subjects include:

  • dance
  • drama
  • medicine, nursing or other health-related subjects
  • performing arts
  • physiology or human movement
  • psychology
  • social work.

You'll also need continuous experience of at least one dance or movement form for a period of two years, as well as experience of a range of different dance and movement forms. A Disclosure and Barring Service check is also required.

Training covers a mixture of theory and practical work, including supervised clinical placements. As well as developing your practical dance movement skills, you'll also cover areas such as anatomy, psychotherapy, psychology and movement observation. As part of the training you must also undertake personal therapy.

Once you've successfully completed the Masters course, you're eligible to practise as a dance movement psychotherapist. Unlike other arts therapists, DMPs aren't currently regulated by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Skills

You will need to have:

  • the ability to improvise, relate and communicate through movement
  • imagination and creativity
  • self-awareness
  • maturity and life experience
  • emotional stability
  • personal integrity
  • analytical skills and the ability to critically reflect
  • empathy and sensitivity towards your clients
  • a high level of commitment to the therapeutic process
  • an interest in psychology, anatomy and physiology
  • the ability to articulate yourself, both physically and verbally
  • self-motivation and a commitment to self-development.

A driving licence is usually required.

Work experience

To get a place on one of the Master's courses, you'll typically need at least one year's relevant practical experience with vulnerable individuals in settings such as health, social, education or community services. This experience can be either paid or voluntary. The length and type of experience required may vary depending on the course provider, so check with them.

It can also be useful to spend some time with a practising DMP before applying for a place on a course. To find one near you, search the ADMP UK Register of Dance Movement Psychotherapists.

Some institutions offer taster, introductory or foundation courses, which provide an insight into the profession.

Employers

The main employers are organisations and services that provide support for individuals with specific mental and physical health conditions - often public services or voluntary agencies. Typical employers include:

  • care homes for the elderly
  • centres for victims of abuse or people recovering from addiction
  • charities and voluntary organisations
  • community care centres
  • hospitals and NHS trusts
  • prisons and young offenders units
  • schools, particularly those for children with special educational needs
  • social services departments.

If you're working in private practice you may work in several settings, supporting individuals with diverse therapeutic needs, although focusing on a specialist area is common.

Work is often carried out on a sessional basis, although there are some opportunities for part of full-time contracts.

Look for job vacancies at:

It's largely up to you to take the initiative, foster links and connections in your area and make speculative applications to create opportunities.

It may be possible to find work through your clinical placement when training.

Professional development

Once qualified, you're eligible for professional registration membership of the ADMP UK and entry on their professional member register as a competent and professional DMP. (The ADMP UK keeps separate registers of members competent to work in private practice and as clinical supervisors.) As a member you must adhere to the ADMP UK's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

In order to stay registered, you'll need to undertake and record a certain amount of continuing professional development (CPD) each year. Activities can include attendance at conferences, workshops, seminars and short courses available through the ADMP UK and postgraduate training providers.

Courses can cover areas such as:

  • dance awareness
  • movement analysis
  • specific client groups
  • supervision and practice skills
  • theoretical approaches
  • psychological development
  • practical and theoretical professional developments.

You can also keep up to date with new developments in the field by meeting with other therapists. It's also possible to undertake further research at PhD level.

If you're working in private practice, you'll need to be registered with the ADMP UK, have an appropriately qualified supervisor and continue to have personal therapy to meet certain standards. You'll also need indemnity insurance to cover your clinical practice.

You can also join the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), which holds the national register of psychotherapists. Entry on to this voluntary register shows that you've undergone appropriate training and agree to follow UKCP's ethical codes and standards and undertake CPD.

Career prospects

Once qualified, it's possible to gain a range of clinical experience and progress to becoming part of a multidisciplinary team, working alongside other related professionals in a range of settings such as hospitals or care homes. You might start out with a diverse client group and then choose to specialise as your career progresses.

With several years' experience, it's possible to move into private practice. If you want to work as a self-employed DMP, you'll need to spend time building up your reputation and networking with organisations that may require your services. This can include developing a network of contacts in related therapy specialist areas in order to benefit from mutual referrals, as well as nurturing relationships in the settings in which they operate.

Experienced dance movement psychotherapists may go on to work as consultants or develop a management career leading other arts therapists. It is possible to move into training and provide clinical supervision to less experienced therapists or into a career in research.