MARA’s assessment process is based on the Outcomes Framework for Dance Movement Therapy (Dunphy & Mullane, 2018) developed for dance movement therapists. The Framework was originally devised for DMT programs for clients with disability in community and educational settings, informed by an earlier assessment schema created by Dunphy and Scott (2003). It was intended to assist therapists with planning and goal setting, support evidence-based understanding of client progress and assist with reporting to other professionals, funders and program managers.
The Framework is underpinned by a holistic approach to well-being, with Therapeutic Domains comprising physical, cognitive, emotional, cultural and interpersonal categories. These Domains derive from Hanna’s (2008) universal descriptors of learning that occurs through dance. They also correspond with aspects of wellbeing considered holistically, where wellbeing is taken to mean a state of equilibrium, where individuals have a unique set of “psychological, social and physical resources . . .to meet a particular psychological, social and/or physical challenge” (Dodge, Daly, Huyton & Sanders, 2012, p. 230). These domains also correspond closely to outcomes of dance movement therapy identified in definitions provided by professional asssociations such as DTAA and ADTA.
Aspects of Laban Movement Analysis (Laban, 1988) are used to frame analysis of observed movement. The Framework’s domains and accompanying indicators are used to record the client’s development of progress in the therapeutic process.
These Therapeutic Domains are broken down further into Therapeutic Goals. These goals were developed in an iterative development process informed by interviews and focus groups with 90 DM therapists from across the world (including Australia, NZ, China, Taiwan, Holland, Italy, USA, etc), informed by their practice expertise.
The Therapeutic Goals are further defined by Measures of Progress that assess key non-verbal and verbal representations of client behaviour relevant to each goal. A scale – 1 (least) to 10 (most) evidence of progress- is provided for each goal.
Plain language is used as much as possible in the Framework, with only the minimal inclusion of specialist terminology, mostly Laban Movement Analysis terms to facilitate its use by non-specialists who might be working with a DM therapist. Plain language is also considered more useful because it will enable greater understanding of assessment results by other stakeholders such as host organisation staff, families and clients.
Therapists select therapeutic domains and goals to assess each session or program. The Framework is applicable across the broad diversity of contexts, populations and cultural groups with which dance movement therapy is utilised.