Our Scholarship Recipient, Frances Lacson, shares of her experience at the ADTA Conference below, thank you for your contributions Frances.
Finding Confidence, Purpose, and Community:
A Filipino American Student’s First Experience at the ADTA Conference
The title of this year’s conference was enough to draw the attention of aspiring dance/movement therapists – Movement as Pathway to Neuro-Resilience and Social Connection: Dance/Movement Therapy at the Forefront. The progressive seminars and trainings, networking opportunities with passionate and like-minded individuals from around the world, chances to not only meet admired scholars but to also dance alongside them at the banquet, and restorative movement classes to wrap up a 4-day experience make the ADTA conference a treat for any dance/movement therapy (DMT) student.
The expansive menu of trainings to choose from was enticing and would be a valuable adjunct to my current education. But for me there was a much deeper reason to attend the conference. As a Filipino American woman and aspiring mental health professional, I am motivated to stand for a population that’s underrepresented in the field of psychology (Nadal, 2011), including its sub-division of dance/movement therapy which has its own historical account of racial and cultural shortages. When I started graduate school in DMT I felt out of place being the only Asian American student in my cohort and lacking professors of a similar heritage. I didn’t share many of the sociocultural locations and dance backgrounds of the DMT pioneers that I read about in my textbook. The overall sense of displacement was further reinforced with previous notions that Filipino Americans are often seen as ‘forgotten Asian Americans’ in society (Cordova, 1983).
The initial letdown from my first year was met with a spark of courage thanks to the support of my Social and Multicultural Foundations professor. This courage led me to the ADTA conference my second year which allowed me to find confidence and purpose in my academic and professional journey. I met a welcoming and culturally diverse community which included Asian American DMT students and leaders, and was astounded by the number of seminars directly related to social justice, diversity, and inclusivity. Some notable seminars included, “Activating the Edges: Addressing Race, Gender, Sexuality and (Dis)Ability” and “Politics of Exclusion and Dance of Inclusion: DMT with Refugees Affected by the Immigration Ban.” One notable seminar focused on using DMT with Asian American survivors of domestic violence and was led by a woman of Korean descent who incorporated indigenous forms of movement into her presentation.
Having witnessed the extent to which DMT stands for social justice and culturally competent therapy motivates me to push forward with my own goals of increasing Filipino American representation in psychology and mental health. I’m grateful for my experience at the ADTA conference for it was the catalyst I needed to find confidence, purpose, and community and I highly recommend the conference for any helping professional. The sheer volume of energy and passion that fills the air gives attendees a sense of pride to be in their chosen field and the inspiration to become part of an exciting future for body-based and movement-oriented psychotherapy.
Cordova, F., Cordova, D. L., & Acena, A. A. (1983). Filipinos, forgotten Asian Americans: a pictorial essay, 1763-circa 1963. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co.
Nadal, K. L. (2011). Filipino American psychology: A handbook of theory, research, and clinical practice. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Author Bio: Frances Cuevas Lacson (She/Her/Hers) is a 2nd year graduate student at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Frances is pursuing a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Somatic Counseling, Dance/Movement Therapy.