My DMT Practice- Neha Christopher

Neha Christopher

Ms, LCAT, R-DMT (LCAT #002128) (R-DMT #2139) CID, Paris (#24446)

In the past 5 years, I have learnt that Dance Movement therapy is so much more than I ever imagined. It is both simple and complex, an established field and an ever growing one. Written below is a brief about me and my DMT practice. For the purpose of this article, my DMT practice has been divided into 3 parts. Grass roots level DMT work, Research & Social Media Advocacy.

Grass roots level DMT:

(i) In the year 2017-2018, I worked full time as a dance/movement therapist in Kathmandu, Nepal. Majority of my work was focussed on advocating for mental health rights and psycho-education. I had the privilege of facilitating 6 different workshops while collaborating with 6 different organisations and facilitating creative arts therapy sessions for over 50 adults from rural and urban parts of Nepal, 15 adolescents from the private school setting and 12 elementary school children from orphanages in Nepal.

(ii) In the year 2016, I worked with elementary and middle school children at a local school in the village of Villa Caoba (La Romana, Dominican Republic). I Co-facilitated dance/movement therapy and art therapy sessions with the goal of providing a safe space for the children to express themselves.


(i) In 2016, I conducted a research on understanding the co-relations between Dance Movement Therapy theory and Salsa dance techniques. This study was conducted in New York, USA. The purpose of this study was to examine the correlations between dance/movement therapy and salsa dance techniques. The methodology selected was a qualitative case study. The participants* (Jesse and Bill) included one couple in a romantic, monogamous relationship between the ages of 30-40. Data were collected through observations, video reviewing, and transcribing of interviews during the 4 dance instructions led by the researcher. The researcher analysed the interactions of the couple during the dance instruction based on verbatim quotes from participants along with viewing the psycho-motor data collected through the dance instruction. The data collected was categorised as correlations between dance/movement therapy and salsa dancing, recurrent and variant themes, if any. Data were reported in a written narrative, integrating these recurrent themes: (a) role lock, (b) support, and (c) synchrony; and variant themes: (a) sensory awareness, (b) touch, (c) resistance, and (d) role reversal that emerged from the study.

A. Role lock: One of the predominant and recurring themes throughout the 4 sessions was the possibility of a role lock within the relationship. “Unlike many human groups that require role stability, psychotherapy can be thought of as the achievement of role fluidity. The absence in group treatments is referred to as role lock” (Bogdanoff & Elbaum, 1978, p. 247). This occurred through the directive of leading and following. The couple identified that their partner’s role felt unfamiliar, awkward, and new. Further, Jesse was able to recognise why the role of the follower felt familiar and protective to her, alluding to a difficult time in her life. She said, “Right from the beginning Bill has been like a super support to me. I was doing drugs at that time too and he didn’t force me in to anything. He helped me realise that I had the strength within me to do what I need to do. Get away from that and turn my life around. This theme started to border on the lines of safety and trust during our last dance instruction. *


B. Role reversal: This was a variant theme that emerged as a result of the couple’s awareness of possible role lock in their relationship. In the second session during the dance instruction, Bill asked, “I wonder what would happen if Jesse led in the salsa partner work section?” Both Bill and Jesse were willing to participate in changing their roles and explore its correlation to their romantic lives. The process of dance/movement therapy proves to be useful in developing the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and client.

C. Support: The third, and final, recurring theme through the 4 dance instructions facilitated by this researcher was, support. It was introduced in the second session when Jesse expressed that she would like to use support to practice the Suzi-Q. On a physical level, the couple was able to gain balance through each other’s support. It was through this theme of physical support during salsa dancing that enabled Jesse to voice her opinion of wanting Bill to hold her firmly and provide her with more physical support during salsa dancing like the abundant emotional support that he provided her in the past. This verbalization allowed the couple to engage in a healthy and successful negotiation of physical support.

D. Synchrony: The researcher witnessed two kinds of synchrony through the course of this study. Lakens (2010) comments that moving in synchrony, or performing movements in a temporally related manner, seems to be a robust human tendency. The researcher observed the couple fell in and out of interactional synchrony while dancing. However, after verbalising their preferences, the researcher witnessed the couple negotiating a way to focus on both the musicality and technique of the steps. The instruction the researcher used for this was to count 1-2-3, 5-6-7 along with the music to ensure the couple would stay on the beat along with demonstrating the footwork of difficult steps while the couple was salsa dancing. The sessions provided a unique kind of interpersonal support and fostered acceptance through the process of mirroring movements.

E. Sensory awareness: The importance of sensory awareness and touch was a variant theme that was introduced, and briefly explored, while the couple was taught how to spin effectively. The theme of having a heightened sense of sensory awareness for the follower, enabling her to follow the different nuances in the leader’s palm movements was brought up. In this study, synchrony emerged as a theme the couple both achieved and struggled with. Interpersonal synchrony can be defined as, “Interpersonal coordination of behaviors in the dimension of time, with similar or even different, but simultaneous movements or change of postures” (Behrends, Muller, & Dziobek, 2012, p.111). In this study, sensory awareness played a catalyst in helping the couple become attuned to each other.

Tabular representation of the results shown below:


These findings may be applicable to mental health practitioners looking to use dance as a catalyst in exploring the interpersonal dynamics of couples.

(ii) Starting in 2018, in collaboration with a mental health workers from Nepal, Neha Christopher is currently working on a scientific journal entry on understanding the barriers in receiving mental health care in Nepal. The background of the study is as follows:

A. South Asia is home to many cultures, climates, and nations. One among them is the landlocked country of Nepal. The Federal Democratic Republic that lies between China and India known as the home to The Himalayas. Nepal’s landscape includes part of the Indo-Gangetic plain (the Terai), Himalayan mountainous terrains, and large valleys where most of its population resides. Nepal covers an area of 147,181 km and has a population density of 181-persons/square RECURRING THMES SALSA DANCE TECHNIQUE DANCE/ MOVEMENT THERAPY THEORETICAL CORRELATION VERBAL CORRELATIONS Role lock leading and following sensory awareness and touch Jesse: “I don’t get to lead a lot” Bill: “I resonate with the role of the leader” Role reversal leading and following sensory awareness and touch Bill: “Yeah, that would be cool to see” Bill: “ It was okay to try it but awkward” Support close hold position spinning sensory awareness of Bill’s physical support while salsa dancing Jesse: “Bill has been a super support to me” Synchrony social dancing Interactional synchrony and mirroring Jesse: “We definitely have our phases when we are in an out of sync” kilometre (Aryal, TR, 2013, pp). Hinduism is the most common religion followed by Buddhism. While Nepal’s tourism generates income for its people; Laxman Kumar Regmi, (2014) describes Nepal’s economy as, “Overwhelmingly rural and agriculture-based” (page 57). Nepal is only 10 years old as The Federal Democratic Republic; prior to which, it was known as The Royal Kingdom of Nepal. Being a young nation between two strong countries, Nepal is constantly attuning to its people’s needs and facilitating development in our rapidly changing and global world. There are several challenges that come in the way Nepalese people receiving mental health care. This article will focus on expounding on 4 of these factors.

Social Media Advocacy:

(i) My first step towards Advocacy was creating a Facebook page called , The Awareness in Arts Project. This page was founded in 2015 and has focussed on showcasing students’ and professionals in the creative arts therapy field. Mainly, it aims at helping people understanding what dance & creative arts therapists do and how it relates to people’s day to day life.

(ii) My Second step in advocacy is my instagram profile. Running under the title of creative_wellness_ This page focusses on breaking the silence related to mental illness. While working in Nepal, New york and Gurgaon, I have found this to be a very effective way of reaching the youth.





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