Dance movement psychotherapists use movement and dance to enable personal, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, physical and social integration and development.

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

Dance movement psychotherapists 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.

Dance movement psychotherapy is practised with both individuals and groups in health, education, community and social service settings and in private practice.

Responsibilities

Duties depend on the particular client group but are likely to include:

  • observing the physical movement of individuals to assess their behavioural, cognitive or emotional state;
  • delivering therapy sessions with a variety of clients individually or in groups;
  • planning a series of movement sessions around a particular client or client group's requirements;
  • helping clients overcome physical, personal and emotional difficulties through the medium of movement;
  • creating a safe environment in which feelings can be contained, acknowledged and communicated;
  • working through areas of personal conflict by interacting with the client, either individually or in groups;
  • identifying appropriate music resources and creating props for sessions;
  • encouraging individuals to interact positively with each other, using role play and other techniques;
  • writing reports, updating client records and completing general administrative work;
  • attending clinical supervision sessions and, for some therapists, providing clinical supervision to other therapists;
  • providing training and teaching on dance movement therapy courses;
  • liaising with colleagues and other professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team;
  • sharing relevant information about clients with colleagues and relatives, while adhering to ethical codes and rules of confidentiality;
  • keeping up to date with new developments in the field by attending conferences, meeting with other therapists and/or conducting private research.

Salary

  • Salaries for dance movement psychotherapists working in the National Health Service (NHS) are typically covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) Pay Rates. Starting salaries are usually paid at band 6 (£25,783 to £34,530). Salaries are pro rata for part-time roles, which are more numerous.
  • Salaries for those with experience typically range from £30,764 to £40,558 (band 7).
  • Senior arts therapists can earn from £39,239 to £47,088 (band 8a). For more details, see Health Careers.
  • 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. It is possible to earn in excess of £55,000.

The income of dance movement psychotherapists in private practice varies depending on whether you are employed or working freelance, but an hourly rate of around £25 to £60 is usual. Other factors such as working hours, length of contract, clinical responsibility and individual skills and experience can also determine the fee charged.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Some dance movement psychotherapists work evenings to fit around their clients' availability and requirements.

The majority of dance movement psychotherapists work on a self-employed and freelance sessional basis. Part-time and sessional work is more commonly available than permanent full-time positions.

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 the client's home.
  • Private practice, training and consultancy roles are possible after several years' experience.
  • The majority of dance movement psychotherapists are female (currently a 95% female, 5% male split), and male entrants are encouraged to join the profession.
  • Most job opportunities arise in London and other major cities.
  • Many therapists combine a number of part-time posts and may take on additional part-time work in other roles, such as dance teaching or exercise classes, to supplement their income. The ability to generate work is important.
  • The work can be physically and emotionally demanding.
  • Keeping accurate records of client development is an important part of the job and is just one aspect of the wider administration involved.
  • Travel within a working day is frequent. Absence from home overnight and overseas work or travel is uncommon.

Qualifications

Entry into the profession is via a Masters degree in dance movement psychotherapy, recognised by the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK (ADMP UK).

For entry on to a course you will need a relevant undergraduate degree, an equivalent professional qualification or extensive experience in a related field.

Relevant degree subjects include those in arts and humanities or life and medical sciences. In particular, the following subjects may increase your chances:

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

You will 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.

In addition, at least one year's relevant practical experience (a minimum of 200 hours), in settings with vulnerable individuals is needed. This experience can be either paid or voluntary.

The ability to improvise, relate and communicate through movement is essential.

Entry on to a recognised course without a degree or HND may be possible for those with substantial relevant experience. Dance movement psychotherapists come from a range of backgrounds including clinical, therapeutic and teaching, as well as all kinds of dance practice.

Masters courses are offered at five institutions:

Courses are available two years full time or three to four years part time. Students usually fund themselves. Contact individual institutions for details of entry requirements and possible funding opportunities.

Some institutions offer taster, introductory or foundation courses, which provide an insight into the profession (but do not confer a licence to practise).

For entry onto courses a Disclosure and Barring Service check is required.

Training covers a mixture of theory and practical work, including supervised clinical placements. All trainees must be registered with the ADMP throughout their training and registration.

In addition to developing your practical dance movement skills, you will cover areas such as anatomy, psychotherapy, psychology and movement observation. As part of the training you must also undertake personal therapy.

Successful completion of an accredited Masters course leads to professional qualification and licence to practice as a dance movement psychotherapist. Unlike other arts therapists, dance movement psychotherapists are not currently regulated by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Skills

You will need to show:

  • imagination and creativity;
  • maturity and life experience;
  • emotional stability;
  • personal integrity;
  • a high level of commitment to the therapeutic process;
  • an interest in psychology, anatomy and physiology;
  • ability to articulate yourself, both physically and verbally.

A driving licence is usually required.

Skills in marketing, self-promotion, networking and running your own business are useful as many dance movement psychotherapists work on a self-employed and freelance-sessional basis.

Employers

Dance movement psychotherapists usually work with individuals with specific mental and physical health conditions. Therefore, the main employers are organisations and services that provide support for these individuals - often public services or voluntary agencies.

Typical employers include:

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

Dance movement psychotherapists in private practice may work in several settings, supporting individuals with diverse therapeutic needs, although focusing on a specialist area is common.

Although it is possible to find work in the NHS, sessional work is more common in this setting. Full-time, salaried posts are rare.

Look for job vacancies at:

Not all job opportunities are widely advertised and even organisations such as the NHS and local authorities make use of known contacts as well as advertising locally.

Practitioners not in full-time employment often create their own work. It is 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.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Continuing professional development (CPD) is required every year of all registered professional members of the ADMP UK in order to record their activities.

CPD is a central requirement for continued professional registration and 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.

The ADMP UK maintains the Professional Register, which lists therapists who are recognised as competent and licensed to practise as professional dance movement psychotherapists.

The ADMP UK also maintains registers of members qualified to practise, to be in private practice and clinical supervision. All dance movement psychotherapists must adhere to the ADMP's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

It is possible to undertake further research at PhD level. For example, an MPhil and PhD in dance movement psychotherapy is offered at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Career prospects

Registered practitioners can gain a range of clinical experience and may progress by becoming part of a multidisciplinary team, working alongside other kinds of professionals in a range of settings such as hospitals or care homes.

Self-employed dance movement psychotherapists will need to spend time building up a reputation and networking with organisations that may require their services.

Self-promotion is important, but therapists also act as ambassadors for the profession, promoting awareness and understanding of the benefits of movement therapy. This proactive approach plays a key part in the career development of dance movement therapists who work on a freelance basis.

Many professionals actively seek to develop 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.

In order to practise privately, dance movement psychotherapists must be registered with the ADMP UK, have an appropriately qualified supervisor and indemnity insurance to cover their clinical practice.

Psychotherapists working in private practice should acquire a substantial level of experience and continue with personal therapy and supervision to meet certain standards. This allows individuals to provide professional training or work as a supervisor.

Dance movement psychotherapists working in health, social, educational and charity settings generally start with a diverse client group, but may become more specialised as their careers progress. Those in private practice either have a specific client group or work generically across a range of groups.

Experienced dance movement psychotherapists may go on to work as consultants, provide support to a variety of organisations or develop a management career leading other arts therapists.

It is possible to undertake further research or provide clinical supervision to less experienced therapists.