Rider University will begin offering a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Dance/Movement Therapy concentration beginning in fall 2019.
Graduates of the program will have the educational requirements for licensure as counselors and will qualify for the entry-level credential as registered dance/movement therapists. The curriculum is aligned to be approved by the American Dance Therapy Association.
The premise of dance/movement therapy is that the mind and body are not dichotomous, said Eri Millrod, a board-certified dance/movement therapist and co-creator of the program. During her 25-year career, she has served on the task force that worked with New Jersey state legislators to create a license for D/MT practitioners and currently works at Princeton House Behavioral Health.
Dance and movement are inherently conducive to therapy, says Dr. Kim Chandler Vaccaro, associate professor of dance.
“Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy is predicated on the idea that people can talk about what’s wrong with them, even though that’s often not the case,” Chandler said in a prepared statement. “But everybody moves. They don’t necessarily have to be dancers, but their movement exhibits dynamics and tensions that, once examined, can be catalysts for further therapeutic work.”
Students enrolled in the program will be required to complete 60 credits of coursework, as well as 800 hours of fieldwork. Prospective students are not required to have an undergraduate degree in either dance or psychology. However, there is a dance audition as part of the application process.
Dance/movement therapy developed into a mental health profession during the 1940s as demand for psychiatric care increased with the return of veterans from World War II. It is now used to treat people suffering from a wide range of disorders, including disordered eating, addictions, dementia, autism, post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.
Dance/movement therapists work in psychiatric hospitals, medical facilities, rehabilitation centers, schools, nursing homes, prisons, and drug treatment centers, as well as in private practice.