How to Become a Dance/Movement Therapist

How to Become a Dance/Movement Therapist

Through the Embodied Education Institute of Chicago

Dance is movement and movement is life.

- Ludmilla Chiriaeff

Students hands raised in unison.

Acronym Key:

EEIC - Embodied Education Institute of Chicago

DMT - Dance/Movement Therapy

AR - Alternate Route

R-DMT - Registered Dance/Movement Therapist

BC-DMT - Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist

ADTA - American Dance Therapy Association

DMTCB - Dance Movement Therapy Certification Board

Dance is intentional. It is healing and expressive beyond the ability of words alone. As dance/movement therapists, we help individuals channel healing and growth into movement. It is a holistic approach to therapy that focuses on the mind-body connection.

If you want to use dance to make a positive impact in someone’s life, dance/movement therapy is a great way to accomplish that. According to the ADTA, dance/movement therapy is "the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.” Dance/movement therapists work in a variety of settings including private practices, nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and more.

There are several paths you can take to become a dance/movement therapist and how you begin depends on what stage of your educational journey you are currently at. Are you currently looking at undergraduate programs? Have you completed your bachelor’s and feel ready to look at graduate schools? Or do you hold a master’s degree in a mental health profession already, but want to specialize in dance/movement therapy? Whichever stage you’re joining us from, you can start planning your DMT journey.

An Undergraduate Dance/Movement Therapy Education

There are several colleges in the US with undergraduate programs that specifically prepare you to be on the track for dance/movement therapy. These programs are preparatory in nature since the master’s level of education is required to become a practicing dance/movement therapist. Focusing your undergraduate major studies on dance and/or psychology can also equip you to apply for graduate programs. These two areas of study should be of interest to you if you are looking to eventually become a BC-DMT.

A Master’s Degree for Dance/Movement Therapy

 If you are looking at master’s programs and know that you would like to study dance/movement therapy, you have two options. One option is to apply to graduate schools with a dance/movement therapy program. There are about seven ADTA-approved schools in the US.

The other option is to obtain a graduate degree in a related mental health field such as psychology, counseling, or social work and then pursue an Alternate Route program for your dance/movement therapy classes. There are 14+ schools internationally, at which you can take classes to satisfy the AR requirements as long as the teaching faculty hold their BC-DMT. This path provides flexibility in your graduate school choices and in how you complete your dance/movement therapy coursework.

We offer an in-depth review of the two paths in our blog post “What is the Alternate Route DMT?”. At EEIC, we provide the Alternate Route DMT education.

Current Mental Health Professionals Seeking Dance/Movement Therapy Certification 

One of the requirements to become a dance/movement therapist is to have completed a master’s degree and have completed specific counseling/psychology coursework. Dance/movement therapy is considered a type of psychotherapy and any private practitioners should be licensed as such in addition to their R-DMT or BC-DMT.

If you have already completed a graduate degree in mental health services or you are currently enrolled in a relevant master’s program and would like to pursue a certification in DMT, then the Alternate Route DMT path is for you.

Becoming a Dance Therapist with the Embodied Education Institute of Chicago

So you’ve made it this far and want to get your R-DMT credential through the Alternate Route program. What does that look like? What does it mean? And how do you do it? All of the questions and answers below are related specifically to our program here at the Embodied Education Institute of Chicago, although many connect directly to ADTA requirements and will be similar for other AR programs.

Students and their professor join hands as part of a movement activity.
What are the requirements for becoming a dance/movement therapist?

The first step is to acquire your R-DMT credential through the DMTCB. The R-DMT is the basic level credential awarded by the ADTA, which allows you to work as a dance/movement therapist in clinical and educational settings. Depending on where you are working, you will also need to seek licensure to practice psychotherapy within your state. This may be as a clinical counselor, social worker, psychologist, physician, or creative arts therapist.

If you would like to eventually teach, supervise, or be in private practice, you will need to acquire your BC-DMT, which is your board certification achieved through the DMTCB. After you get your R-DMT, you will need 50 hours of supervision and approximately two years of working in the field to become a board-certified dance/movement therapist. If you’re as overwhelmed by all of the acronyms as we are, please refer to the acronym key at the top to familiarize yourself with these terms.

Now let’s rewind to that first step: receiving your R-DMT credential. Once you complete all of the necessary requirements, you can apply to ADTA for this credential. The ADTA requirements are:

Dance/Movement Therapy Education and Training Requirements*

*as described in the ADTA R-DMT Handbook

DMT Theory & Practice: 18 credits

Movement Observation: 6 Credits

Group Processes in DMT: 3 Credits

Kinesiology: 1 Credit

Total: 28 Credit Hours

The R-DMT requirements also include general training (through a master’s program), fieldwork, and an internship.

How long does it take to become a dance/movement therapist?

The AR track, including DMT coursework, fieldwork, and an internship, takes between two and three years to complete. At a minimum, it can be completed in about eighteen months. It can take longer depending on your availability to attend certain classes.

At EEIC, we offer individual and group advisement sessions from an experienced BC-DMT. These programs help students get oriented to the alternate route process. You can register for an individual consultation or group advisement session through our Class Registration page.

Dance/movement therapy class using ballet to teach in a studio.
How are classes structured?

We offer in-person, hybrid, and online dance/movement therapy classes. They are offered in varying formats and at varying times, often shifting with the semesters so if a class doesn’t work for you this semester, it might work for you next semester. We offer many weekend classes that take place over one or two weekends. We also have 10-week and 15-week classes. We are continuously asking current and prospective students what works best for them, so that we can structure our upcoming semesters with convenience in mind.

How much does it cost to train to be a DMT? Does the Alternate Route program offer financial aid?

Our classes cost $425/credit. The DMTCB has additional fees for credentialing that can be found on their website.

While EEIC does not offer scholarships in the way a traditional university could, we have discounts and payment plans. We also have a work-study program that can lower the cost of your classes. If you’re interested in participating in work-study, please reach out to us at


Ready to begin? Visit our Alternate Route DMT page to read course descriptions and see our upcoming schedule. If you’re ready to register, check out our new Class Registration page.

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