AcademicsGraduate AcademicsClinical Mental Health CounselingSomatic Counseling: Dance/Movement Theories & Practice

Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA

Somatic Counseling: Dance/Movement Theories & Practice Concentration

Gain clinical counseling skills and experience firsthand the healing potential of dance with Naropa’s Somatic Counseling: Dance/Movement Theories & Practice concentration.

About this Concentration

This unique concentration combines movement therapy with contemplative practice and clinical mental health counseling.

The Dance/Movement Theories & Practice concentration provides students with the theoretical, clinical, and professional skills to be effective counselors grounded in the integration of body, mind, and movement.

In this concentration, you’ll encounter both traditional and innovative dance/movement therapy approaches while exploring self-psychology, the Gestalt-influenced movement cycle, and applied neuroscience.

Beyond its academic depth, the master’s program in dance therapy offers opportunities for physical, spiritual, and emotional development. You’ll delve deeply into creative methods for client interaction, employing improvisation, rhythm, and metaphor to discover and express your authentic self. 

Naropa’s Dance/Movement Therapy program is one of only seven dance therapy degrees approved by the American Dance Therapy Association. Naropa’s Somatic Counseling tracks are designed to help students gain the certifications they need for successful careers as dance movement therapists.

Participants in the program must fulfill a practicum and engage in a 700-hour clinical internship, emphasizing impactful service and enabling observation and involvement within the mental health and broader community as incoming therapists. These experiences expose students to diverse populations, fostering familiarity and enhancing their community comfort level.

Naropa’s course offerings are designed to create a matrix of learning in which study in each area connects and complements study in other areas. As students concentrate on a particular course, they are prompted by experienced faculty to consider insights and interconnections from other classes. 

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Quick Facts

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Program Format

The MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Somatic Counseling: Dance/Movement Theories & Practice Concentration is a three-year on-campus program that focuses on counseling, the healing potential of the creative experience, and the therapeutic properties of conscious movement sequencing.

Students in the concentration receive robust training in somatic movement therapy’s theoretical aspects. Alongside, they delve into mindfulness practices and accumulate hands-on clinical expertise.

While pursuing your Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree, you’ll understand the essential and dynamic exchange between mind and body as both elements continuously influence one another in a symbiotic relationship. 

Course Spotlight

Current Methods & Skills in Psychotherapy

Major current approaches in psychotherapy theory and practice, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Solution Focused Therapy are explored. Students have the opportunity to examine how each of these methods operates independently, as well as how they interface with more traditional approaches. Students also begin to work with these approaches in a way that builds clinical skill development in alignment with a somatic psychotherapy orientation.


The Dance/Movement Theories and Practice Concentration spans 64 credits over three years, emphasizing counseling skills, harnessing the transformative power of creative experiences, and using intentional movement sequencing for therapeutic benefits.

The concentration is designed to follow standards for Clinical Mental Health Counseling as well as guidelines from the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA). The concentration has been an ADTA-approved program since 1987.

Counseling Experiential Requirement

Each student must participate in a counseling/therapy relationship with a qualified psychotherapist of their choice. A minimum of fifteen 50-minute face-to-face sessions (via telehealth or in person) within the first two years of the program is required. (The term “psychotherapist” is used to be inclusive of licensed providers from a variety of professional mental health backgrounds. The Student Guidebook outlines specific parameters of a qualified psychotherapist.) 

Course Schedule

  • CMHC 600, Foundations and Orientation of Clinical Mental Health Counseling (3)
  • CMHC 601, Social/Multicultural Foundations (3)
  • CNSD 617, Foundations of Dance/Movement Therapy in Counseling (2)
  • CNSS 646, Contemplative Practices for Somatic Counseling I (1)
  • CMHC 603, Counseling and Helping Relationships I (3)
  • CMHC 602, Human Growth and Development (3)
  • CNSS 658, Applied Anatomy and Neuroscience in Counseling (2)
  • CNSS 622, Body/Movement Observation/Assessment (3)
Summer Year 1 (Off, 0 Credits)
  • CMHC 604, Counseling and Helping Relationships II (3)
  • CMHC 605, Group Counseling (3)
  • CMHC 606, Legal and Ethical Aspects of Counseling (3)
  • CNSD 716, Specialized Approaches in Dance/Movement Therapy (2)
  • CNSS 663, Family Systems (3)
  • CNSS 606, Advanced Counseling Skills (3)
  • CMHC 607, Diagnosis and Treatment Planning (3)
  • CMHC 620, Counseling Practicum (3)
  • CMHC 609, Research & Program Evaluation (3)
  • CMHC 608, Assessment (3)
  • CNSD 621, Extended Practicum (Dance/Movement Approaches in Counseling (1)
  • CMHC 622 Internship I (3)
  • CNSS 664 Crisis, Trauma & Disaster Counseling (3)
  • CMHC 615 Capstone (1)
  • CMHC 623, Winter Intersession Internship (0)
  • CMHC 624, Internship II (3)
  • CMHC 610, Career Development (3)
  • CMHC 616, Capstone II (1)

Why Choose Naropa?

Contemplative Approach

Naropa’s curriculum emphasizes mindfulness and moving meditation as well as diversity and community engagement. Naropa’s Somatic Counseling programs will help transform you into a deeply aware therapist who is passionate about helping others create change in their bodies, minds, and lives, by first working with yourself.

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Diversity & Inclusion

Naropa University is dedicated to embracing diversity and inclusive education. This is helpful in understanding and showing qualities that bring people together, aiming for a fair and united society.

Community-Based Learning

Through internship experiences, students become acquainted with different populations as they observe and participate in the community. This hands-on learning offers them the opportunity to act as professionals in training, gaining invaluable real-world experience and skills.

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How this Program Prepares You

Clinical Experience

Your second year in the Dance/Movement Therapy program begins with supervision and mentoring during a 200-hour practicum. You’ll then begin your 700-hour internship journey in your third year, participating in collaborative team meetings and receiving clinical supervision as you lead dance therapy sessions and groups.

Movement Therapy Certification

Upon graduation, students in the dance/movement therapy concentration will have fulfilled the requirements for the American Dance Therapy Association’s initial registration as a Registered Dance Movement Therapist (R-DMT). Program graduates can apply for the R-DMT credential as soon as their degree is completed

Diverse Learning

Graduate students in the dance therapy program gain a strong theoretical grounding in somatic movement therapy. Additionally, they engage in mindfulness practices and accumulate extensive clinical exposure. The ultimate goal is for each of our graduates to become self-aware, compassionate therapists who nurture mind-body synchronization.

What You'll Learn

Integrative Psychotherapy

Demonstrate critical thinking, academic expertise, theoretical knowledge, and practical clinical skills.

Clinical Counseling

Apply techniques, skills, and interventions to help the body heal the mind.

Be Present

Maintain continuous awareness of sensations, emotions, body, and thoughts.

Mindfulness Meditation

Recognize and point to moments of brilliant sanity in yourself and others.

Pluralism and Multicultural Competency

Recognize and appreciate differences in people’s experiences of their bodies and their movement patterns.

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Career Opportunities for Somatic Counseling: Dance/Movement Theories & Practice

Upon completing the master’s degree in somatic counseling: dance/movement therapy, our graduates pursue careers as individual and family therapists, program coordinators, dance therapists, and beyond.

Regardless of your career path, the solid foundation from your clinical internship will empower you to serve with compassion and mindfulness.

Discover Career Pathways for Somatic Counseling: Dance/Movement Theories & Practice

Hear from a Graduate

The coursework at Naropa provided cutting-edge academic theories about the neurobiology of the mind as both embodied and relational and led me to feel exceptionally prepared when I later pursued my doctorate in clinical psychology.

Arielle Schwartz

Somatic Counseling: Body Psychotherapy, 1999

FAQS about the
Somatic Counseling: Dance/Movement Theories & Practice

Although there is no official licensure for dance/movement therapist, graduates from our program are eligible to apply to be registered Dance Movement Therapists and use the credential R-DMT. They will be eligible post-grad to pursue the highest level of certification with the ADTA, BC-DMT or Board Certified Dance Movement Therapist.

Yes, you need formal dance training to study dance/movement therapy. Applicants need expertise in at least two different dance (or movement) forms; in-depth and dedicated experience in a minimum of one dance form; and exposure to composition, choreography, performance, and dance history.
Dance/movement therapy is different from other somatic healing forms by emphasizing movement and dance as core therapeutic tools. Unlike approaches focusing solely on touch or body awareness, Dance Movement Therapy uses expressive movement to address emotional, cognitive, and physical integration. Practitioners interpret nonverbal cues through dance, promoting self-awareness and emotional healing in a unique therapeutic context.

Naropa’s Dance/Movement Therapy stands out due to its integration of contemplative practices with therapeutic techniques. The program emphasizes a holistic approach, combining dance and movement therapy with mindfulness and self-awareness practices rooted in contemplative education.

Moreover, Naropa’s clinical internship experience will serve as a strong foundation for graduates, as well as the opportunity to fulfill the requirements for the American Dance Therapy Association’s initial registration as a Registered Dance Movement Therapist (R-DMT). 

Learn More About the Program

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with your counselor

Jeffrey Neering

Graduate Admissions Counselor

Ready to Apply?

Admission Requirements

At Naropa, we value both academic excellence and the willingness to carry out introspective work.

Learn more about admission requirements and the application process for the Somatic Counseling: Dance/Movement Theories & Practice Concentration.

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On top of an undergraduate degree, this concentration requires dance experience, including expertise in at least two different dance (or movement) forms, in-depth and dedicated experience in a minimum of one dance form, and exposure to composition, choreography, performance, and dance history.

Additionally, coursework requirements include 3 credits of Intro to Psychology and 3 credits of Abnormal Psychology or Theories of Personality.

To apply, submit an online application and the following documents: 

  • Transcripts from any institutions where undergraduate coursework was completed.
  • A detailed statement of interest
  • Resume/CV that covers pertinent academic, employment, and volunteer history (including exact dates of participation)
  • Two letters of recommendation

Qualifying applicants will be contacted for an interview day.

Take a look at the complete list of admission requirements.

Naropa welcomes students from all corners of the world. International applicants must fulfill the same requirements as national applicants. We also need some additional documentation in order to evaluate your academic record.

Explore further details on application criteria for international applicants. 

Costs and Financial Aid

For comprehensive details on tuition, scholarships, grants, and financial aid options, refer to our “Costs & Aids” webpage. Most of our graduate students benefit from federal or institutional financial assistance programs; check whether you qualify.

Graduate Scholarship Opportunities

Scholarships are a great way to help with the costs of going to school. Naropa University offers an array of scholarship opportunities to graduate students. Students may be eligible to receive scholarships through their admissions application, by applying for scholarships, or by being nominated for a scholarship. For more detailed information about the different scholarships available and how to receive them, please review our graduate scholarship page.
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Naropa Campuses Closed on Friday, March 15, 2024

Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

Based on the current weather forecast, the Healing with the Ancestors Talk & Breeze of Simplicity program scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday will be held as planned.

Staff that do not work remotely or are scheduled to work on campus, can work remotely. Staff that routinely work remotely are expected to continue to do so.

As a reminder, notifications will be sent by e-mail and the LiveSafe app.  

Regardless of Naropa University’s decision, if you ever believe the weather conditions are unsafe, please contact your supervisor and professors.  Naropa University trusts you to make thoughtful and wise decisions based on the conditions and situation in which you find yourself in.