Being a Dance/Movement Therapy Intern: Leading My Own Group

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I have already written two blog posts about my internship at Anixter Center, working with adults with developmental disabilities, but I am about to venture into writing another.  Please bear with me.  As a second year student in the dance/movement therapy & counseling program my internship is a huge part of my life.  Not only is my internship a major time commitment (twenty-four hours a week, not including in-class supervision), but it is also a major part of my growing process as an emerging dance/movement therapist.

At my internship I often co-lead groups because my on-site supervisor is a registered dance/movement therapist (I also co-lead with a music therapist and an art therapist).  I also cover groups when she is unavailable.  However, the past two months I have begun to lead my own group called Performance as Therapy held every Friday morning.

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As the intern, I was able to create and formulate what I wanted my own therapy group to be.  Groups at my internship run for fifteen weeks, and each year there are three sets of groups, or trimesters.  Since I am gearing up to do my thesis soon (another topic I will be revisiting) I wanted to incorporate the idea of performance within the group.  And thus, Performance as Therapy on Friday mornings was born.

When I envisioned the format of my group, I imagined that the group members would work together in setting choreography that would be performed for peers and Anixter Center staff members.  I was wrong.

Instead, one of my clients had actually choreographed a dance (to Beyonce, no less) before the group had started and wanted to perform it for the group.  PERFECT, I thought.  So, I invited him to perform his dance and from there it set off a series of mini dance performances, many of which were actually improvisations.  Regardless, they are performances in which each client is being witnessed and seen by their peers.

While a client performs, other clients dance in their chairs or along the “stage.”  Sometimes the performer even invites other group members to join in the performance creating duets or trios.  My clients are fully engaged in a creative process and each other, which are the two main goals of the group.

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It’s really quite beautiful.  I always catch glimpses of honest self-expression and connection between two people, even in the simplest hand touch.

So, although my group didn’t turn out how I had anticipated, the structure of the group is working out well.  The best part about it is that the clients chose this structure, and the group is still very much directed by them.  Whoever wants to perform, performs.  Who ever wants to dance, dances.  And that’s the point.