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How to Find a Psychologist Who Can Help Improve Your Performance

How do I know when I've found a good psychologist for peak performance? I've tried therapy with referrals from my insurance, but they knew nothing about dance. I also worked with someone who specialized in sports. Again, it wasn't a good match, since she didn't understand the movements from ballet that I'm trying to improve. What are my options?

—Lily, Summit, NJ



When your goal in therapy is to become a stronger performer, you need a mental health professional who understands dance vocabulary and is aware of possible impediments, such as hypermobility or lack of stage experience. The right psychologist will help you address the physical and/or psychological factors that are negatively affecting your performance, and they'll equip you with insight and strategies to apply to the stage.

To find licensed clinical or counseling psychologists in your area, contact your state psychological association (see apa.org) or local dance schools and companies. It's perfectly fine to call a psychologist's office and ask about their experience with dancers. Personal rapport is a crucial part of establishing a therapeutic relationship; setting up an initial visit is a good way to see if you feel comfortable working together.

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Charlene Gehm MacDougal as Lead Nursemaid in Petrushka. Photo by Herbert Migdoll, courtesy the MacDougal family.

In Memoriam: Joffrey Dancer Charlene Gehm MacDougal, 69

Former lead dancer with The Joffrey Ballet, Charlene Gehm MacDougal died of ovarian cancer on January 10 at her home in New York City, age 69.

Gehm illuminated the inner life of each of the varied characters in her extensive repertoire. Whether she was the gracious hostess in George Balanchine's Cotillon, the riveting Lady Capulet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, or in the tumult of William Forsythe's Love Songs, she drew the viewer's eye and heart to the essence of the role.

As Forsythe puts it: "Charlene was certainly one of the most elegant dancers I have had the privilege to work with. Her striking countenance flowed into her work and, joined with her wicked sense of humor and intelligence, created thoughtful, mesmerizing and memorable art."

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February 2021