Mental Health and Dance Movement Therapy With Jaqueline Butler

"Who would have thought that one casual visit to a dance club would pave the way for a career in Dance Movement Therapy."

Mental Health and Dance Movement Therapy With Jaqueline Butler

The mental health of others has been of paramount importance and a great interest to Jackie Butler. Since 1998, her approach has incorporated the use of dance to express people’s emotions and tackle different levels of trauma. Whilst chatting to Jackie about her first taste of dance being used to combat mental health issues, it was clear that she has followed an incredibly creative path  to create her London-based practise, Body of Change. 

"Who would have thought that one casual visit to a dance club would pave the way for a career in Dance Movement Therapy."

Who would have thought that one casual visit to a dance club would pave the way for a career in Dance Movement Therapy.Jackie talks about her initial experience in a dedicated dance club, ‘I happened to have stumbled upon a dance club where there was no drinking, smoking so people walked very freely’. Being creative minded myself, I can relate to the feeling of finding a place that truly clicks with your interests. In a world where creative careers aren’t as appreciated as others, it’s highly important to applaud someone who truly enjoys what they do. The club Jackie speaks of sounds fantastic for letting loose without the worry of external influences; a secret haven solely dedicated to dance. 

It was here that Jackie met a fellow dance enthusiast who encouraged her to combine her Psychology degree with her interest in helping people. Dancing is evidently packed full of emotion, whether it's in your room by yourself or a nightclub surrounded by friends (pre-covid of course), it’s incredibly passionate. Jackie says, ‘...it grounds me. Dance is the creative part of all of this’. Jackie embraced this passion so vividly to follow a career that combined both psychology and dance.

It’s a combination some wouldn’t even think of; most people assume that medical treatment for mental health issues is best. However, as soon as you understand DMT, you can’t think of anything more suitable. Using an activity that nearly all of us do from time to time, whether it be in the club, classes or even just jumping about in your room to the latest Lady Gaga album (don’t lie, we all do it), dance lifts us up. DMT reflects an individual's patterns of thinking, feeling and communicating. Its alternative take can lead to new insights about oneself. It requires empathic listening and a non-judgemental environment and I admire Jackie’s focus on these factors. Not many can express themselves without the fear of judgement, especially these days with the prevalence of social media and ‘cancel culture’. 

"life is all about change and for me, it’s a very collaborative work. We don’t know where it’s going, which is exciting’."

After our chat, Jackie shared that life is ‘all about change and for me, it’s a very collaborative work. We don’t know where it’s going, which is exciting’. Her work is primarily aimed at people dealing with anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma. Jackie currently focuses on helping people with autism, particularly with their struggles with social anxiety: ‘I get quite a lot of people with social anxiety. We do a lot of work through that with non-verbal issues’. Dance accompanied by spoken word is a preferred method of choice, with an emphasis on expression through physicality. Jackie conducts communication skills training through Body of Change for families, carers or even support staff helping those with learning disabilities or autism.

Jackie also expressed her current interest in working with Respond, a charity dedicated to helping people with learning difficulties and/or autism. In their thirtieth year, Jackie celebrates Respond’s leadership in their field. You can find a link to their website at the bottom of the page.

Unfortunately there aren’t many services in this field, despite Respond leading the way for the future. Combined with her expertise in DMT, it's obvious that Jackie is determined where there are gaps in service. This determination really inspired me; not many people have the generosity and dedication for helping others.

Although DMT isn’t yet widely known, Jackie encourages anyone who finds it interesting to pursue it: ‘Go for it. I think that, if it suits you and it’s your path, then it’s a wonderful path to take and it's very fulfilling’. It would be fantastic to explore the possibilities of DMT for the future. Job opportunities vary from person to person, but that could be said for all forms of career work, regardless of how popular they are to take on. Who knows, you could be the next advocate for Dance Movement Therapy! 

Don’t let the dance aspect fool you into thinking DMT is just about dance. People look towards dance as a way to let go and feel more free. We all do it! So why shouldn’t it also be used in a more serious way to help those in need?  It could be the most effective way of helping others feel better about themselves. Psychology and dance can help in many ways and with the different kinds of work Jackie has taken on, it would be an understatement to say that we here at Catch21 can’t wait to see what she does with her expertise and talents next. 

Maximillion Chapman