Why was MARA developed?

Assessment in dance movement therapy and related fields: a literature review

DM therapists face significant challenges in providing evidence-based assessment of their programs (Caldwell, 2013; Cruz, 2006; Cruz, 2013; Karkou, 2010; Miller, 2013). These challenges include a dearth of user-friendly comprehensive frameworks (Cruz & Koch, 2012; Powell, 2008), particularly a lack of frameworks that enable description of observable movement (Powell, 2008). Well-known tools for DMT assessment, the Kestenberg Movement Profile (Kestenberg Movement Profile, 2015) and the Movement Diagnostic Inventory (Davis, 1991) for example, require a high level of specialist expertise that limits their use even by DM therapists (Cruz & Koch, 2012; Koch, Cruz, & Goodill, 2001). Such tools also require specialised skills for understanding data generated. This reduces the usefulness of the information gathered to other stakeholders who do not have DMT training, such as funders, program managers, support staff, families/carers and clients themselves (Dunphy & Scott, 2003; Snow & D’Amico, 2009).

As a result of these restricted options, DM therapists who undertake formal assessment very often use self-devised assessment tools and measures (Powell, 2008). This lack of systematic approaches and underuse of standardised instruments has many negative consequences for the field. These include reduced efficiency of individual practitioners, creation of data that does not meet important scientific requirements of reliability and validity (Gantt, 2000) and loss of potential comparability of data gathered between practitioners and in different settings (Powell, 2008).

Tools that are in use have been largely developed for clinical situations in which the therapist works one on one with a client, which allows time for detailed documentation of observations of individuals. Edited volumes Brooke (2006) and Miller (2013) that discuss innovations in creative arts therapy assessment offer no evidence of tools that expedite assessment of clients who participate in dance movement therapy in groups.

As yet technology seems to be under-utilised by DM therapists for assessment. Our review found no evidence found of any technological tools currently in use. Cruz (2006) reported the development of software technologies that have capacity to tag specific moments in video recordings of client movement and can recognise and record Laban Movement Analysis, but our review found no evidence of their application in practice.

These findings about the lack of use of technology for assessment were confirmed in discussions about assessment with more than 100 DM therapists from more than ten countries who attended a series of professional development events we led in Australia,USA and Indonesia between 2010 and 2014 (presentations at three American Dance Therapy Association conferences, workshops run by the Dance Movement Therapy Association of Australasia and DMT workshops supported by the Asian Psychological Association). No participant offered information about systems they were using or knew of that would address these issues. Two conference presentations we made to education assessment specialists and dance educators also had similar results, with no new tool uncovered. An informal survey of ten Australian colleagues who practice DMT and also work in mainstream therapeutic disciplines (counselling, social work and mental health nursing) undertaken by author Dunphy confirmed this finding, with none of them involved in regular use of technological tools for assessment either.

Technology-based assessment tools seem to be under-developed in other therapeutic professions as well. While Hahna,Hadley, Miller, and Bonaventura (2012) document a range of technological tools that music therapists have used for assessment since the 1980s, their own survey of use of apps by music therapists reported none in current use for assessment. For example, Magee, Siegert, Daveson, Lenton-Smith, and Taylor, (2014) document a current and sophisticated tool for music therapy assessment that requires manual entry of data into Excel sheets that need to be re-entered into computer programs for statistical analysis. One recent major international initiative to encourage the sharing of assessment tools between mental health practitioners recommends a manual process of hard copy worksheets for data collection (Law & Wolpert, 2014).