GUIDE TO USING MARA
This page provides answers to FAQ and a Guide to Using MARA. This page is being updated all the time as we address the differing situations of our users.
MARA is an assessment tool for dance movement therapy. It is being gradually developed by dance movement therapy researcher Kim Dunphy, in response to a range of formal and informal trials with users. MARA is intended to facilitate more regular and efficient assessment than is possible with paper-based processes that need additional work to process into reports.
See MARA and its features here
V. 2.5 of MARA is available from this website, and V. 2.6 is in development. We welcome feedback from users at any time, please email us.
What technology do I need to use MARA?
MARA can be used with all current i-Pads. Users with some older style iPads and mini-pads have generally been able to utilise all important features of MARA, although there are occasionally some formatting and other minor issues.
Is MARA available in other platforms?
Currently MARA is only available in an iPad-compatible form. We understand that potential users may prefer to use Android devices or computer versions or mobile phones, but these are not yet possible for MARA. We will consider this in future versions, but not at least until 2020.
Using MARA features without technology
It is also possible to use the MARA assessment approach without technological tools. Email us if you would like to access the Outcomes Framework and Excel sheet for scoring by hand.
Setting up MARA
Details of how to download MARA and Filemaker Go software it is based on are provided here.
Return to MARA
Return to MARA at any time by opening Filemaker Go and choosing MARA from the list of files on the left.
Password: What to do when I have forgotten my password?
If you forget your password to MARA, please email us and we’ll get back to you with a temporary login that will allow you to change your password.
MARA is organised into three main sections: ‘Participants’ (where information and assessment data about individual clients is stored); ‘Groups’ (where individual clients are listed together as a Group); and ‘Outcomes Framework’ that provides information about the elements of assessment on which MARA is based.
In this feature, you can store information about individual participants. Click on participant’s name to access their page: name, contact information, photo and other information in the ‘Participant information’ section. You can take a new photo using the app, or import one. Click on the photo square to choose your preferred option.
Data from your client’s participation in the DMT program is stored here too. ‘Notes and Media’ (photos, videos, audio recordings) is where all data gathered during sessions is stored. ‘Sessions and Attendance’ shows number of sessions each client has attended and their dates. You don’t need to actively do anything here, as MARA will store the information as you gather it.
Click on ‘New Participant’ to enter details about a new client. For agencies in which identifying information is not allowed to be kept on an iPad, therapists might use a code or pseudonym for participants’ names.
This page lists all participants whose details are saved into MARA.
This feature enables a list of client names and other information to be imported directly into MARA.
Send email to this list
This feature enables emails to be sent to all names on this list, or names selected by checking the box on the left.
This feature enables you to cluster participants into ‘Groups’.
Group Details and Make Session
This feature enables you to keep information about each group.
‘Group ID’: (what you call this group – this might be a name such as ‘Wed Mothers and Babies’, or number such as ‘Year 10A’).
‘Description’: A short description of the group (eg. New young mothers and babies up to one year, Mostly boys aged 16 and 17 years.
‘Location’: where this group takes place
‘Notes’: In this section you might write notes about your goals for a particular period of time, or any other information that is relevant about the group.
Add Participants to a Group
To add participants to a group, use ‘Go to participants list’ at the bottom of the page. Then click on the box next to the name of participants you wish to add to a group.
This is the place to start for assessment for each session.
Set up a session for assessment
To set up a session for assessment, begin by ensuring that your Group contains all the participants who might be attending. Then click the ‘Sessions’ button. This will show you all the previous sessions run for this group. Click on the ‘Create New Session’ button. Then you should mark attendance of all those participants from your group who are attending that session by tapping the ‘Attendance’ button next to each name.
Set objectives for the session
Set objectives for the session by tapping the ‘Subdomains’ button. Tap the + button on the right to see the entire list of Domains and objectives. Tap on your selection. These will appear in a list of Objectives for the group and also on your client’s assessment page.
Then tap the ‘Assess’ button and the app will take you to ‘Assess Participant Screen’. The objectives marked in pink indicate those you have selected to assess for your participants in that session or group of sessions. You can also assess any other objectives, but the pink marking is intended to remind you to assess against objectives you set before you began.
MARA data gathering options
MARA can gather assessment data in multiple formats: quantitative (numerical scores that are formed into graphs; qualitative (written notes); media (photos, videos and drawings).
The therapist taps MARA to record a score for each time they see a behaviour or a movement that they wish to assess. MARA records the number of taps made, and the range and average score for each measure in each session, then makes them instantaneously into graphs. Graphs can be produced for data across one session, or a period of sessions. This instantaneous visual feedback of client progress is expected to be affirming to the assessor, who is able to see patterns in the client profile immediately they occur.
The therapist can create written notes to support their quantitative scores.
Voice to text option
A faster option to record therapists’ notes is use of the voice to text option (more information coming soon)
Multi-media options: Audio, Photo, Video, Sketch,
Tap on the Multi-media option to access a range of data gathering options: Audio, Photo, Video, Sketch. Sketch options might include drawings by therapist or client or a quick written note. Make sure you press the ‘Save’ button to keep this data.
All of this data is saved into participants’ profile filed by session, time and date. This temporal marking enables the therapist to determine when in the session, such as during what activity any specific moment occurred. Therapists’ scores and written observations are triangulated by these multi-media forms.
This page shows the entire Outcomes Framework on which MARA is based, developed specifically for assessment in DMT. The outcomes are clustered into five domains: Physical, Cultural, Emotional, Cognitive and Social. Tap on each domain to see detailed objectives for assessment. The bolded heading shows which domain is open. Tap on each objective for a detailed definition (coming soon).
Therapeutic domains, goals and objectives and scales within this Framework are informed by theory, evidence and practice knowledge contributed by dance movement therapists across the world, through a decade of research and development. The Framework is posited to be applicable across the broad diversity of contexts, populations and cultural groups with which dance movement therapy is utilised.
The Outcomes Framework takes a person-centred and resource-oriented approach, intended to support the therapist to make judgements that are considerate of individuals’ strengths and lived experiences.
The provision of an Outcomes Framework that includes specific measures across a comprehensive set of domains is intended to support a therapist to better specify outcomes being sought in their program. More about the Outcomes Framework here.
Can I include additional goals for assessment as I use MARA?
No, there is not an option for users to include their own additional goals or objectives in MARA. The idea of the Outcomes Framework on which MARA is based is that it currently, or eventually, will include all outcomes that are documented as being achieved through DMT, or that therapists have reported that they look for. By having a standard set of outcomes with associated measures that DM therapists use to assess their work, the need for every DM therapist to invent their own measures is eliminated.
Having shared measures also increases the effectiveness of those researching and writing about their work, especially because this enables the possibility of datasets that can be joined, compared or otherwise put together.
If you have an objective that you think should be included in MARA, please email us and we can consider it. It’s possible to include new ideas, as long as they fit the criteria (documented as being achieved directly through DMT or that therapists have reported that they look for). It’s also possible that the description or definition of current outcomes could be adjusted to cover goals that practitioners seek to address.
Setting objectives to assess in MARA
This Framework can function to catalyse the DM therapist to first clearly identify outcomes of the therapeutic process that s/he and the client have agreed to work towards, and focus intently on assessing the client’s progress towards these, selecting a score for each instance of a movement behaviour observed. Previous users report their observations practices being ‘sharpened’ in using MARA, especially in its requirement that a numerical score for each objective must be selected to represent the quality of movement observed (Dunphy, Mullane & Allen, 2016).
Creating a group profile to set objectives for a whole group
When initially planning a program, it is possible to create a group profile to assist a therapist decide on objectives for the DMT program. This would be done by assessing all clients on objectives that might be considered relevant, perhaps from the host organisation’s goals, the therapist’s own perspective, clients’ expressed interests or concerns, or other reasons. Then a group average could be calculated from scores of individual clients on each objective. A therapist may then decide to focus on objectives that clients’ scores indicated strength on, or those which needed development, or a combination of the two.
How many objectives to assess?
We recommend that therapists select a small number of objectives to assess against, even if they believe the likely possibility that their program addresses many of the outcomes outlined in the Framework and MARA. Our previous experience indicates that when working with groups, a maximum of two specific objectives is more than enough for a therapist to manage (Dunphy & Hens, 2018).
Our experience is also that these objectives need to be the same for all members of the group for assessment to be manageable. This doesn’t mean that individual clients do not have different needs, but just that for assessment purposes in a typical DMT context with high demands and low support, a manageable demand on the therapists is recommended. Our experience has also been that the more demanding the assessment task is, the less likely to therapist is to sustain regular assessment practices. This system has been invented to support therapists to undertake regular, systematic assessment within the significant limits of most current DMT workplaces.
These choices depend on the particular situation. If the therapist is well supported with skilled program staff and has paid time to spend on assessing and writing up notes and reporting on clients’ progress, then s/he might be able to assess against more items. For therapists working one on one with clients, a wider range of objectives might be feasible to assess against.
Assessment scales used in MARA are not norm-referenced, but referenced against the therapist’s judgement of the participant’s current capacity on that goal. The therapist scores how close s/he believes the participant to be in achieving their current potential, with a high score (highest 10) indicating actualisation of skills and capacity, and a low score (lowest 1) indicating potential as yet under-developed or enacted. This offers the possibility for the scale to be adjusted over time to reflect changes in the participant’s capacity (improved or otherwise) as a result of the therapeutic process or other factors.
How do I know what score to give my client?
MARA‘s assessment process requires DM therapists to score their client on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest achievement that might be expected for any goal. The Outcomes Framework is not norm-referenced, because each DM therapist works with clients of varying capacities. The intention of dance movement therapy is that each client achieves their potential, so the therapist’s job is to support them to achieve that. Therefore, the therapists makes the rating score based on what they believe the client’s capacity for that item is at that time. Rating using the scale is made against the client’s own capacity.
How can the therapist's judgement be valid given that it is subjective?
The issue of subjectivity in assessment is a tricky one, but no more so for using MARA than any other assessment tool in DMT. However, MARA, has been developed as a tool for trained DMT professionals who are bringing their skilled judgement, expert ‘eyes’ and knowledge of their own clients and/ or client groups to the assessment task. This underpins all assessment scoring.
Our own experience in informal testing with assessment scoring in MARA is that consistency between scorers is remarkably high, even when scoring is being done by people who know and don’t know the client, and who have different training (DMT and non-DMT). We have written about this a bit in our article (Dunphy & Hens, 2018).
Inter-rater reliability scores in the first formally reported trial were moderate to good (Dunphy & Hens, 2018), even for scorers assessing at different times (during and after the session). This offers support for the reliability of MARA as an assessment tool.
The additional modalities of photo, video, drawing, notes and audio recording that MARA facilitates also strengthen therapists’ assessment judgement as they provide triangulation of numerical scores.
Scoring of objectives that have a range, such as Effort elements
The idea of the reporting for any element, such as Time, is that you are looking for clients’ increased access to that whole element, across its range. For example, for the Effort quality of Time, a DM therapist would ideally support their client to achieve the fullest access to the spectrum of Suddenness to Sustainment, with neither extreme being better or worse. What is desirable is that clients have access to both extremes or polarities of the element.
Therefore, good access across the range (within the client’s capabilities) would score highly. Where a client was not demonstrating good access to one or other aspect of Time (suddenness or sustainment, or the whole spectrum), again as relative to their capability, then they might also score lower.
If a therapist decides to work on one aspect of Time, such as suddenness, with a client because the client had little access to that, the client might first be scored low on that element, and the therapist would write in their accompanying notes (on the app) that their score was related to Suddenness. There might not be a focus on sustainment in that session because the client had good access to it, or because the client and therapist had decided to work on the different polarities of Time separately. If you were working on sustainment in a different session, the score might be either high or low depending on what you observed, and your notes would help support your scores.
The scoring has been created like this so that scores increasing from low to high indicate improvement- with high scores indicating fuller access to the range of polarities for any element, for example. If each element was scored each element separately, this is not necessarily so: a client’s access to suddenness is only really desirable if they also have access to sustainment. A high score on suddenness with a low score on sustainment might not be a desirable outcome for a client. The goal of therapy is higher scores on every element.
When should I assess: how often within a session, or in how many sessions?
MARA is a tool to support DM therapists’ assessment practice, so it can be used in place of existing assessment practices and as frequently as they have been undertaken. In DMT programs where assessment has not yet been established, MARA‘s users needs to decide what their purpose is for assessing to decide how often they assess (and tap). An assessor can decide to tap once in a session at the time a behaviour or movement is observed or multiple times to indicate frequency of occurrence of the behaviour or movement being assessed, or at particular time intervals throughout a session.
Where MARA is enabling assessment practices that have not previously occurred, and therapists have to make decisions about what they do, here are some thoughts:
a) assessment of each objectives might be undertaken once per session at a certain point that has been decided beforehand, for example, during a particular activity that is intended to elicit the movement behaviour being sought;
b) assessment might occur at the end of the session to record a score that the therapist decides is representative of the client’s overall performance on that element for the session. This scoring might occur with therapist/s scoring independently or therapist might choose to confer with other colleagues or support workers at the end of the session, to end up with one score each for each client on the goals for the session;
c) it might be a very salient moment (either towards desired goals or not) that happened during the session that the therapist has observed and wants to record;
d) if the app is being used for research where a therapist or researcher has a good amount of time to focus on one client or one movement element, one score might be made of every time the element (for example, suddenness) occurs throughout the session. This process would enable the development of a picture of when suddenness is elicited in a client’s movement, and therefore how the therapist might respond. If more suddenness is required for the client to have a good movement range, then finding the moment that this quality is elicited (for example, when mirroring someone who is very skilful in this quality) would enable the therapeutic program to be adapted to include more of such moments to offer the client the greatest chance to develop their own capacity;
e) researchers might also decide to score at a particular time period throughout the session (such as every five minutes) so that they are sure they are recording all of the client’s capacities, and not just those they are looking for (such as high access to suddenness). This would help reduce the possibility that the therapist only records the things they are wanting to see and misses all the rest of the time when the client is not actually being supported to access whatever it might be;
f) researchers might tap every time a particular quality is evidenced (this is more like micro-analysis) that would enable a whole session to be analysed in minute detail. This type of assessment would not be within the scope of a therapist offering dance movement therapy with clients, but might be useful to offer particular insight.
A, b and c are more likely to be useful strategies for therapists using the app as part of their normal practice, and d, e and f more for researchers or those therapists who are resourced to do detailed analysis.
Group notes: can a group be scored as a whole?
MARA has been developed on the presumption that the therapist must report on individual clients, and hence has individualised data gathering options. If a therapist also wanted to keep a record of the process or progress of the group as a whole, one option is that they enter ‘Whole Group’ as a ‘participant’. Then scores, notes and media data might be kept for a whole group. This would enable the therapists to copy and paste this information into any individual client’s record.
Group scoring is not a recommended option, however, as funders, managers, participants and their families are likely to be most interested in progress of individuals, regardless of whether they undertake therapy in a group setting.
The ‘Results’ button near the top right of the screen will take you to the page where quantitative data from clients’ assessments is stored.
Managing Client Data in MARA
Privacy of client data
Privacy of client data is an important consideration for all professionals. MARA offers security features to enable privacy and confidential data management. First, each iPad has a password protection. Then MARA has up to two levels of password protection: for individual users there is only one level, but for those sharing a MARA licence in an agency or program, a second level is available with the manager of the program having capacity to enable or disable staff accounts.
MARA users can also use pseudonyms or codes in the place of client names for agencies that do not allow use of client names. Other features such a photo and identifying personal information are available for those who might need it, but are not necessary for successful functioning of MARA.
Storage of data
Each MARA licence is local to the device on which it is stored. Data gathered by MARA is stored locally on the app on which it is collected and can not be accessed by anyone other than the licence holders.
Backing up data gathered in MARA
MARA has been developed as a data gathering tool, which is necessarily limited because of the app device’s limits. Users are recommended to regularly export data out of MARA and save it or back it up as they would with any other assessment data. This includes archiving of client records if they leave a program.
Exporting data out of MARA
MARA offers options for exporting data by email or download. Assessment data ( in excel and graph form, notes and media) can be exported from MARA by email. Ensure that your iPad has email access on it to enable this feature to work, and that it is set up with an account for you.
Use of data gathered by MARA for research
At some future time, if research projects seek to use data gathered by MARA users, a request would be made of licence holders, and they would be invited to provide data, pending all necessary ethical and permission issues are addressed satisfactorily. No access to data is possible without direct request of licence holders.
Dunphy, K. & Hens, T. (2018). Outcome-focussed dance movement therapy assessment enhanced by iPad app MARA. Frontiers in Psychology. 9:2067. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02067.
Dunphy, K., Mullane, S., & Allen, L. (2016). Developing an iPad app for assessment in dance movement therapy, The Arts in Psychotherapy, 51, 54-62.