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Columbia College Chicago
Meet the Faculty

Meet the Faculty

Jessica doing Laban

Jessica Young


"I love being in the classroom; I love teaching; I love challenging myself to improve how I teach as well as what I teach. [I love] helping students to explore and to be in that process and to figure things out without necessarily saying ‘this is the answer’… I don’t always know the answer, but we can bring the body in to discover those answers: ‘Let’s try it on and use the body as a resource to figure it out.'"

—Jessica Young, full-time faculty and Clinical Coordinator

Three years after graduating from the University of Iowa with a BFA in Dance, Jessica Young knew she was ready to make a life change and apply to graduate school—but she didn’t know she wanted to become a dance/movement therapist. Young explored pursuing physical therapy or occupational therapy, then stumbled across dance/movement therapy (DMT). After extensively researching DMT and the different schools that offered it, she set her sights on Columbia College Chicago—moving from Bradford, Pennsylvania to Chicago before she was even accepted.

By the time Young graduated, she had fallen in love with DMT. She had also fallen for the city of Chicago; she jokes, “while my classmates were all going home, the thought of leaving never even crossed my mind. I felt very much at home.” She has lived here ever since and now serves her Alma Mater as the Clinical Coordinator and full-time faculty of the Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling Department.

Young tends to view her work “through a Clinical Coordinator lens,” bringing her valuable clinical experiences into the classroom. She has most frequently worked with adults with severe and chronic mental illness often dually diagnosed with substance abuse. This expertise was first cultivated at her first field placement site. When she arrived, the site had never had a dance/movement therapist on staff: “It was exciting and empowering to introduce [DMT] to clients there. I visually saw the effectiveness of it and so did the [organization’s] administration” —something that inspired her and continues to inspire her today. There, she also encountered the first of many “supportive and strong” internship supervisors she has had, which she considers one of her major influences.

Young worked at this field placement site again after graduating. She spent four hours a day, five days a week, with a similar population group and continued integrating the organization’s best practice and assessment tools (including Motivational Interviewing and the Harm Reduction model) with her own DMT interventions. She also made consistent efforts to apply Rudolf Laban’s (1879-1958) taxonomy to her work, as she was concurrently attending Columbia College Chicago’s Graduate Laban CMA program (GL-CMA).

After five years, Young left to become a full-time faculty member at Columbia College Chicago where she currently teaches Observation and Assessment of Movement (I & II), Internship (I & II), and Addictions Counseling. Some favorite parts of her job include seeing students at work, witnessing their growth in the context of internship, developing internship sites, visiting current internship sites, and speaking to the greater Chicago community about DMT.

Her up-to-date knowledge of the field allows her to give relevant and valuable advice to those considering or already in the field of DMT. She commonly encourages students to “Learn to trust the process instead of the product.” This can be difficult for those who have been raised in a culture that values quick, positive results, but “Therapy is a process, and it is challenging…You are not going to see bold changes at the end of a week.” Young describes a homeless client whom she spent three years with before the client considered moving into a homeless shelter.

She also prepares students to navigate organizational/corporate systems, which can be frustrating as students encounter bureaucracy, coworkers who dismiss DMT, or salaries that might not reflect the hard work that dance/movement therapists do. But Young takes comfort knowing that “We [dance/movement therapists] always have DMT for ourselves… and can use it to notice what’s going on in our own bodies, regulate ourselves, and role model.”

Young sees positive changes ahead for the field, as Western culture begins to acknowledge that the body can be used not merely for expression but for healing. She references the way in which popular culture has recently embraced dance and witnessed its positive effects on the human psyche. With this in mind, Young insists “there is job potential out there for dance/movement therapists.” She emphasizes the wide range of choices for our graduates looking to start careers in the field, building on their own individual experiences and goals; “I think you might need to be creative in terms of what that looks like for you, but it’s there.”

Article by Bethany Brownholtz