Combining Dance and Therapy

Jennifer Hamman - Student Story

Jennifer Hamman grew up in Red Deer Alberta. She recently graduated with a MA in Expressive Arts Therapy from the European Graduate School, after completing the Expressive Arts Program in Vancouver in 2014, and earning a BA in Psychology and Contemporary Dance at the University of Calgary in  2010.

While working as a support worker for clients with developmental disability and mental illness, Jennifer continued to pursue her love of dance. She eventually moved to Vancouver for a 9-month intensive contemporary dance program, where she discovered a way to combine her passions through Expressive Arts Therapy (EXA).

“Expressive arts was attractive to me as it offered a way to work with people in the creative process with a focus on personal growth and healing,” Jennifer said. “EXA is grounded in the physical body, so it felt strongly related to my love of movement and connecting with one’s own physicality. Once I started working in my practicum, and experiencing the work for myself during intensives, I was enamored by how powerful this way of working had the potential to be.”

Despite enjoying her Psychology Degree, Jennifer left university feeling inadequately trained for any particular career path. “I was not interested in pursuing further education unless it was something that would supply me with tangible skills,” she said.

“I craved education that was experiential and practice-based. The Vancouver program lead by Heather Dawson gave me all of those things in a way that was truly life-changing. Not only did I have the opportunity to fully experience the work for myself, and follow my own interests in an adult-learning model, but I also got extensive hands-on experience in practicums.”

The part-time program at the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts Therapy begins in September and takes 10 months to complete. Courses are held over 16 intensive weekends and once into the practicum module of the program, students also attend class on an additional evening. 

“With Heather’s expert supervision I left the year feeling really solid in the work. The training fostered my personal strengths and resources, even qualities about myself that I never previously considered positive, and helped me discover ways to nurture them and be authentic as a practitioner.”

Jennifer said her favourite part of the program was the experiential training module, which offers self-directed courses in Visual Arts, Movement, Poetry, Storytelling and Narrative, Sound, Drama and Play and Intermodal Training.

“There are so many individualized variations of ways to work in expressive arts based on your interests, strengths and skills. You are not forced to fit into a box, but rather led to examine and get to know yourself in a deeper, more nuanced way, developing your own therapeutic style and niche in the field.” 

Jennifer now works in a First Nations community with adults, youth and children, and at an Aboriginal Focus Elementary School. She is also building a private practice, working individually with clients as well as running groups and workshops. 

“It is an honor to be with people inside the creative process; witnessing clients in their vulnerability and resiliency. Expressive arts has become a way for me to be in the world. It has brought me a mindfulness practice, taught me how to be fully present, and has led me towards new ways to nourish myself.”

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