The Benefits of Movement Therapy

When words aren’t enough, Kandice Moss helps clients get in touch with their life experiences by using their bodies.
Moss is licensed professional counselor and ADTA-accredited dance/movement therapist based in Royal Oak. // Photograph by Robin Gamble Photography

Choosing the kind of psychological treatment that’s best for you is a highly personal matter.
One exciting option gets therapy clients up off the couch and moving.

It’s called dance/movement therapy, and according to the New York-based American Dance Therapy Association, the psychotherapeutic use of movement promotes the emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of an individual.

We asked Kandice Moss, a Royal Oak-based licensed professional counselor and ADTA-accredited dance/movement therapist to tell us about it.

What’s dance/movement therapy all about?

It’s about how life experiences live in the body. At times, verbal communication can only go so far. When an individual is unable to gather the right language or has a difficult time due to a trauma, their cognition is blocked. A person may want to access parts of their life through their body.

What about people with two left feet?

No dance ability or experience is required.

How does it work?

We use the body as an assessment tool to gain insight through the session and use movement or words to deepen the individual’s experience on an emotional level. “How is your experience showing up in your body? Shoulders shrunk? Not making eye contact?” Let’s talk about what’s contributing to that tension.

Maybe the first three or four sessions are traditional talk therapy during which I’m assessing the client, watching their posture, getting in tune with them. I use those skills and nonverbal ways to build rapport. I may mirror their posture in my body.

What kind of movement is involved?

The spectrum of movement can range from breathing to proximity with another individual. They could walk around the room. Or skip around to explore their inner child. Or crawl around if we’re talking about birth. Or explore what it feels like to walk backward. We incorporate music, flags, scarves, and/or a Hula-Hoop to allow clients to move their body.

Mambo, tango, salsa, or waltz for couples’ organized dance can teach the experience of being a leader, to delegate, to follow, and can even teach impulse control. “What’s it like when you don’t know where your partner’s leading you? What’s it like to look in their eyes? Does she step on your toes in real life?” Let’s see how partners respond.

Can you provide an example of what your observations tell you?

When an individual is challenged with parenting, we take the lens of proximity into account and how it affects the parent and child as they relate to each other.

What kind of homework do you assign?

Give yourself a hug three days a week. Tell your partner nonverbally that you missed them. Consider what eye contact feels like to you and how that shows up in your professional life.

Is there a greater need for connection these days?

The growth of the practice evolved during the pandemic among millennials and Gen Z. A lot of parents are requesting in-person sessions for their kids because of so much screen time.

This story is part of a three-part series in our 2023 Health Guide. Read more in our Digital Edition and don’t miss the other two parts: How Art Displays Help Cancer Patients and How ‘Miss Gail’ Helps Haitian Kids Receiving Medical Care