One of the joys of my life is that I get to work with amazing artists. Sometimes I know one thing about them (they write wonderful pieces) but I only learn that they have not-so-hidden talents after coaching them! Lea Comte is a writer, performer and dancer who works with dance therapy. What she does is so inspiring, I had to share it and help connect her to people out in the world.
I did an interview with Lea and she shared some amazing information and links.
Q: Lea, to start with, what is Dance/Movement Therapy?
A: As defined by the American Dance Therapy Association, dance movement therapy (DMT) is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to “further the emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integrations of the individual.”
Q: That sounds amazing! How did you get into dance movement therapy?
A: Ha ha ha! I love this question! I have been a dancer my entire life. I joke that dance is more of something that I am rather that something that I do. When I started my undergraduate school years as most teenagers, not having a clue what I wanted to do. I remember one of my first meetings with my advisor, he asked me, “What do you want to do?” “I like psychology and I like dance.” “How are you going to utilize that?” (shoulder shrug) “I don’t know.”
After working as a pharmacy technician for years, I thought it was only a natural choice that I attempt pharmacy school. I applied to all of the in state schools and even some out of state schools, while I worked to complete all of my prerequisites. Months down the road, after several rejection letters, a D in neuroscience, and a crumpled spirit, I sat on the couch one evening with a glass of wine, crying. I thought to myself, “finding a career that I am meant to do should not be like this. Why can’t I just find something that combines my love for dance and psychology?” On a whim, I Googled “dance therapy” and BOOM, the American Dance Therapy Association popped up. I was elated! One year later, I was enrolled and off to New York to attend graduate school.
Q: See, I had no idea you were a pharmacy tech either!!! What training did you receive in order to practice as a dance therapist?
A: I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Dallas where I focused on Human Development and Natural Sciences. I then attended graduate school at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York where I received a Masters in Dance and Movement Creative Arts Therapies. While in graduate school I completed two internships. The first was at a HIV/AIDS day treatment program for adults, the second was a day treatment and partial hospitalization program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals.
Q: What types of people do you work with?
A: My specialty is children. I have worked with children of all ages, from newborn to teenagers. I am most intrigued by toddlers though. Starting around ten months to age two and a half, kids open up to the world like no other time in their lives. Everything they experience is new and fresh, it’s like I get to re-experience the world for the first time.
Q: Why utilize dance/movement therapy with children?
A: Movement is the language that children use from birth. Utilizing dance and movement therapy with children gives them an instinctual tool to express their thoughts and feelings. DMT is applicable for children of all ages, all physical and mental functioning levels, and all diagnoses. By entering into their world, “trying on” their movement, and allowing them to express themselves freely, without judgment, children feel more seen, heard, and understood, boosting their self-confidence and sense of self.
Q: What do you mean by “trying-on” their movement? Would you say more about that?
A: A dance movement therapist’s tool of assessment and intervention is movement. When we physically and literally try a child’s movement, we pay attention to what that movement feels like for us. We pay attention to any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that we may be experiencing through this movement. Through this embodied process, we are able to make more insightful interventions with the child by pulling from our own experience.
Q: If I brought my child to you, what would a session or the therapy entail?
A: I devise a goal-oriented plan for each child that may include individual, parent/child or family therapy sessions. Sessions usually include a warm-up, active engagement, and cool down or closure period. Creative movement, dance/play, music, American Sign Language and other creative arts are utilized to cater to each child’s preferred method of expression. The duration of a session is dependent upon the child’s needs and stamina, and can range anywhere between thirty minutes to one hour.
Q: Who can benefit from Dance Movement Therapy? Is it just for children with special needs?
A: Any child can benefit from dance and movement therapy. The goals of a DMT session can range from, but are not limited to:
- Obtaining Coping Skills
- Appropriate Anger Expression
- Better Integrating Senses
- Developing Healthy Attachments
- Coping with Loss or Trauma
- Developing Social Skills
- Clarifying Body Boundaries
- Expressing Needs
Many disabilities are treated with DMT:
- Sensory Integration Disorder
- Attachment Disorder
- Down Syndrome
- Anxiety Disorder
- Obsession Compulsion Disorder
- Pervasive Development Disorder
Q: What are you currently working?
A: I am working on a couple of things at the moment. I am working to establish a practice over at Big Sky Pediatric Therapy. We are offering individual and group dance/movement therapy sessions for children.
I am also currently in my third semester of an international post graduate training program. Dr. Suzi Tortora conducts a bi-weekly webinar hosting twelve dance movement therapist from around the world, to teach about her Ways Of Seeing program. The webinar focuses on utilizing dance movement therapy with children and their families. We are developing a further understanding of family dynamics, infant mental health, movement assessment, and the role of non-verbal communication. We will be presenting as a team at the National American Dance Therapy conference in New York, October 25th.
Q: Where can people get more information?
A: There are several websites that have wonderful information. Some of my favorites are:
ADTA, SuziTortora, BigSkyFriends, Psychology Today’s Blog.
There is also a wonderful YouTube link to a video about dance movement therapy with children.
It sounds like all of us could benefit from playing more and being in our bodies. Lea Comte is not only a talented performer but she’s truly shifting how we can work with bodies and spirit.