Dunphy, Kim

Activating client perspective in creative arts therapy assessment

Kim Dunphy

The task of assessing client progress appropriately is an ongoing challenge for creative arts therapy professions. This is so for all modalities, but dance movement and drama therapy seem particularly disadvantaged currently. As yet, there is little evidence of agreed use of validated outcome measures, nor practical assessment tools consistently employed in each profession. The use of technology is, as yet, under-developed in creative arts therapy assessment overall, with practitioners not yet benefitting from the efficiencies of time and scale that digital tools would provide. Existing assessment approaches appear to largely rely on the professional judgement of therapists, with clients’ views on their progress not yet well integrated into formal assessment practices. This is less than ideal, given growing impetus from policy and practice philosophies of self-empowerment of clients in their health and wellbeing journeys.

This presentation addresses these challenges in introducing the iPad app assessment tool MARA. Its features that enable therapists’ judgements and clients’ active participation in assessment processes are described. Data gathering options are outlined, from therapists’ quantitative scoring, to qualitative observations and reflections from therapist and client, and photos, videos, voice recordings and arts-based responses of drawing and writing.

The presentation is illustrated by a case example of MARA applied in a dance movement therapy program for clients with intellectual disability in Melbourne, Australia. Assessment data generated by therapists and clients are elaborated, and both stakeholders’ responses to these new assessment practices are discussed. The implications of inclusion of client perspectives in the assessment process for effective and respectful creative arts therapy services are considered.



Dr. Kim Dunphy is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Creative Arts and Music Therapies Research Unit at the University of Melbourne, Australia, where she is exploring her interests in assessment and evaluation of DMT. She publishes widely on these topics, including articles in Frontiers in Psychology and Arts in Psychotherapy on developing an iPad app for assessment. Kim has also been involved in developing technological products for evaluation and assessment, including MARA, the world’s first iPad app for dance movement therapy assessment, for which she received an award for innovation from the American Dance Therapy Association in 2015. Kim is President of the Dance Movement Therapy Association of Australasia, Research Convenor of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia and Convenor of the new World Alliance for Dance Movement Therapy. She previously practiced as dance teacher and therapist specializing in working with children and adults with intellectual disabilities.


Recent Publications

Dunphy, K. & Ware, V. (2018). Dance and quality of life in indigenous cultures in Australasia, In: Bond, K. & Gardner, S. (eds). Dance and the Quality of Life. Springer.

Mullane, S. & Dunphy, K. (2017). Dance movement therapy and student learning and well-being in special education. In:  Karkou, V., Oliver, S. & Lycouris, S. (Eds.). The handbook of dance and wellbeing. pp. 493-516. London: Oxford University Press.

Dunphy, K., Mullane, S., & Allen, L. (2016). Developing an iPad app for assessment in dance movement therapy, The Arts in Psychotherapy, 5, (54-62). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2016.09.001.

Recent Presentations

2018: Invited speaker: International panel, Trauma and Restoration:  An International Response.

American Dance Therapy Conference, Utah, October 2018.

2018: Presentation: Utilising new technology to assist effective and systematic assessment of dance movement therapy, European Association for Dance Movement Therapy, Athens, Greece, October 2018.