Reflections from my keynote presentation.

I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for the annual conference of the New England chapter of the American Dance Therapy Association (NEADTA) this March. A couple weeks ago I shared some of my experience and photo/video highlights in the post , Embracing Who We Are.

One of the valuable aspects of a conference is the time away from everyday practice to dig into professional reflection and development, and I’m hoping to give you a bit of that with this post.

The conference theme was strengthening the development of self, practice and profession. After taking a look at the origins and development of dance/movement therapy to date, I turned to the question, “How can we nurture our growth and vitality, both individually and as a profession?”

In this post, I will share the first of three areas I highlighted:


We need to know what our strengths are.

As individuals, we each have strengths and unique qualities that we use in our work as therapists. This is also true of the various branches within the therapy professions. When we embrace them, we can do our most effective work.

The field of dance/movement therapy has two qualities that are quintessential to the field: embodiment and creativity. As I wrote about in Embracing Who We Are, I experienced the power of making these aspects of our work the foundation of the keynote presentation itself.

Personally, I have a knack for improvisation. This has served me well as a dancer and choreographer, but it is also integral to the way I do therapy.   And something that stands out about me is my crazy use of metaphor – I’ve gone a sailin’ on pirate ships claiming the rights to be captain instead of a deck-scrubbing sailor with my clients and, well, let’s just say I can squeeze the heck out of a strange mixed metaphor….

We need to develop clarity about who we are and what we do.

As we develop a sense of what we are good at and what sets us apart from others, it is important to develop clarity not only about who we are and what we do, but also to become aware of the boundaries within our work, the challenges we face, the benefits and limitations of our work, and our own growing edges.

This helps us to hone our skills, develop our style, and work within a safe and structured framework. It guides us in seeking the support we need and provides checks and balances for us to practice with integrity.

And, very importantly it helps us to communicate with others about what we do, both within our own circles and in larger professional communities.

We need to discover and use our own gifts.

The purpose of life is to discover your gift.

The work of life is to develop it.

The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

David Viscott, Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations

Underlying all that we do, we each have gifts that fuel not only our work, but all of our lives.   In my keynote, I talked about the pioneering grandmother of dance/movement therapy, Marian Chace.

She is known for developing the power of “group rhythmic movement” in her work with severely mentally ill patients in psychiatric hospitals. While this describes some of her best known work, it was not her gift.

Her gift lay in her ability to ignite the power of human connection no matter the circumstances. I am certain that she brought this quality to all of her interactions – as a dancer, as a therapist, and as a human being.

I would like to invite you to spend some time connecting with your own gifts, and using your body as a source of wisdom to do so.


Read through the guidelines below and then spend as much or as little time as you’d exploring the ideas.

1. Pause and settle.

First, get comfortable. Take some nurturing inhales and relaxing exhales. Stretch, shake out your hands, sigh. Take a moment just to notice sitting or lying or moving and appreciate that you are taking some time to nurture yourself. Smile or relax your face.

2. Become curious about your own gifts.

Ask yourself, “What is a particular gift of mine?” Close your eyes or take a soft gaze and see what you discover. You might also journal or draw or move to express yourself and see what you unearth.

Notice what it feels like in your body when you connect with a gift of yours. Perhaps you feel energized or relaxed. Maybe you feel your gift in a particular part of your body. You may have a sense of clarity or flow or calm.

3. Honoring your gift.

As you increase your awareness of a gift that is yours, notice what happens if you consider it with a sense of reverence, with the perspective that it is something to be cherished and nurtured and shared.

When we connect with our strengths and what make us unique, when we gain clarity, when we seek to discover our gifts and use them, we deepen into our life work with energy and flow.

I hope you will take some time in the upcoming days to savor what you have discovered and sink deeper into what you really have to offer, not only in your work, but in your life.

Stay tuned.

I will be sharing NEADTA keynote reflections, parts two and three in upcoming blogs.

This article is intended for informational purposes only.

It is not to be considered as legal, ethical, clinical, treatment planning, treatment recommendations, or any other business or clinical practice advice related to your work as a therapist, or business advice on how you choose to use this material.

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