Incorporating the Principles of DMT by Stacia Barrett, LMSW

As a clinician with no experience in dance or who simply cannot dance, you may think that incorporating the principles of Dance/Movement Therapy in your practice is out of the realm of possibilities. Though it is true that DMT is of interest to those who have a dance background there are also clinicians with no dance experience who use this modality. Clients that utilize DMT do not necessarily have a background in dance. The word movement is included because it is about the movement of the body and the creativity innate to dance. Rena Kornblum describes the guiding principles of DMT as: 1. Being aware that “how we hold our body reflects our feelings/personality”. 2. Providing for “change in the range of movement”. 3.  Change in movement “changes the feelings experienced” (2012). Being aware of client’s non-verbal cues is a key component to many educational programs related to therapeutic services. It stands to reason that noting the way a client holds their body would be easily incorporated into the notation of behavior and appearance, similar to affect congruence.

DMT is a strength based model, it is not about teaching a client to dance but improving upon the movements a client already uses to express their emotions. In this way DMT is not limited to clients with a “normal” range of physical or mental capabilities. In the case of a client in a hospital with limited mobility Kornblum suggests that even the movement of a finger can be therapeutic depending on the client’s needs (2012).

To apply these principles to your practice lend your attention to the way your client arrives to a session with you. A client who enters the room slumped over and looking down may be experiencing sadness the expression of this may begin by noting what you see. Build on what the client has and has shared in previous sessions with you. Allow the client to express the sadness in a way that is comfortable to them; reflect their feelings with your body and conversation. In this way you are applying principles of DMT with no stretching required.

Stacia Barrett, LMSW



The University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Social Work (producer) (2012, November 27). Dance/Movement Therapy in Social Work. Video retrieved from

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