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Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling Faculty Spotlight

DMT Faculty Jessica Young


Professor Jessica Young

Before Jessica Young became a board certified and licensed dance/movement therapist and faculty member in Columbia’s Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) & Counseling Department, she was a practicing dancer with a BFA from the University of Iowa.  After a brief time of performing and teaching dance professionally, she realized she wanted to do something more.

She started looking at occupational therapy, which introduced her to the field of DMT.  She discovered a field where she could apply her movement skills as a helping professional, and she instantly connected. “I heavily researched the different programs, each of which has a unique focus,” says Young. She decided on Columbia’s MA in Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling, which she found to be the largest and most selective of the six nationally accredited programs. She was so intent on pursuing the degree that she moved to Chicago on an act of faith before she was even officially accepted.

She decided on Columbia’s MA in Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling, which she found to be the largest and most selective of the six nationally accredited programs. She was so intent on pursuing the degree that she moved to Chicago on an act of faith before she was even officially accepted.

Columbia provides an exciting atmosphere for students who may want to continue developing their skills as dancers and Young took advantage of the College’s vast resources. She continued to pursue her individual artistic practice throughout the program in addition to completing her dance/movement therapy coursework, fieldwork, and internship. After two and half years of rigorous and fulfilling study, she realized she wasn’t ready to leave. “Once I completed the program, and all of my classmates were talking about moving home, I realized the thought of leaving [Chicago] never even dawned on me; I felt like I was home.”

Young settled into the city as a professional, working for Heartland Health Outreach as supervisor of their psychosocial rehabilitation program for homeless adults with chronic and severe mental illness. As part of her work at Heartland, she began supervising graduate students from Columbia’s Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling program. Her strong connection to the Columbia community led to thesis advising and, eventually, adjunct teaching.

The field placement is the student's initial exposure to the field. They see the ins and outs of the system, get familiar with the population they will be serving, the culture of the agency, and how dance/movement therapy fits into all of that.

Young also remains connected to the larger dance/movement therapy field. She serves on the American Dance Therapy Association’s Approval Committee (ADTA), and recently served as president of the Illinois chapter of the ADTA and president of the Coalition of Illinois Counselor Organizations.  In addition, she provides trainings through the Midwest Harm Reduction Institute and offers clinical supervision on a private basis.

In addition to her role as Assistant Professor in Columbia’s DMT Department, she is the program’s Clinical Coordinator, helping students with fieldwork and internship placements. “The field placement is the student's initial exposure to the field. They see the ins and outs of the system, get familiar with the population they will be serving, the culture of the agency, and how dance/movement therapy fits into all of that. Then they embark on an in-depth internship—by the end, the students are running their own groups, they may have their own case load, and they’re really a member of the team… hopefully, that leads to a job.”

Columbia’s location is an asset to finding placements, since Chicago’s urban environment offers many counseling and social services. But Young doesn’t overlook the strength of the program itself as instrumental in the student’s professional success.  “It’s our focus on [Rudolf] Laban’s movement analysis work and the way we integrate the counseling and dance/movement therapy components. We are very mindful of having a developmental curriculum that makes sense to the student and brings the body and mind into each class. After the program, students enter into the world with not only a broad, but a deep skill set.”  

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