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The inner world of dance: An exploration into the psychological support needs of professional dancers

Stuart, Alison (2009). The inner world of dance: An exploration into the psychological support needs of professional dancers. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The dance psychology literature highlights a number of psychological difficulties which may be experienced by professional dancers. The importance of psychological support has become increasingly recognized within the dance profession but this has yet to be explored from the perspective of counselling psychology. The research addressing the issue of psychological support in dance is scarce, and little is know about dancers’ perceptions of these services. This research aims to address a novel area by conducting an exploration of dancers emotional support requirements and addressing perceptions and experiences of psychological therapy. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with eight dancers, currently employed with British dance companies. Interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The research was conducted according to the British Psychological Society Ethical Principles and Guidelines (2005). Four super-ordinate themes emerged from the data: Inside the world of dance, emotional challenges of career, barriers and facilitators to seeking support and personal perceptions of support services. Overall findings suggested the dancers’ intrinsic motivations for pursuing their career were in conflict with the external occupational demands within the profession. Emotional challenges often resulted from the lack of fulfilment of basic psychological needs, as defined by self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2002). A variety of barriers and facilitators to seeking psychological support were identified and the need for impression management was highlighted in relation to beliefs around career progression. The findings reported a number of key areas which might facilitate the process of seeking psychological support. These included reassurances around confidentiality, dissemination of information and the need for dancers to feel empowered by companies to make use of these services. The potential role of redefining psychological support services in order to reduce fear and stigma was also highlighted by this study.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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