Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MS in Dance/Movement Therapy

First Advisor

Elise Risher


Adolescence is a critical stage of development which is defined by significant psychological, physical, cognitive, and social changes. Considering the complexities of this life stage environmentally and physically, it is the case that many adolescents are vulnerable to experiencing mental health issues and can benefit from therapy, including acute care in an inpatient setting. The adolescent life stage is also characterized by a desire to be independent and take risks, and therefore presents a unique challenge to therapists for a variety of reasons, including mental health stigmas, feelings of mistrust, and the lack of agency associated with being a teenager. Adolescents are also driven towards creative expression, and research suggests that they can benefit from holistic, embodied, artistic, and nonjudgmental group environments that foster their growing sense of agency while providing a supportive structure. Creative arts therapy groups offer this balance of self-expression and safety for adolescents in the inpatient setting. Dance/movement therapy specifically focuses on embodied techniques that allow clients to process emotional issues and experience connectedness, both in relation to their bodies and other people. A choreographic approach to dance/movement therapy within adolescent inpatient psychiatry offers a holding structure within which adolescent clients can explore aspects of their identity, their relationships, and their feelings through the creation and practice of defined movements and gestures.