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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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5 Self-Soothing Exercises You Can Do to Calm Your Anxiety

Physical stillness can be one of the hardest things to master in dance. But stillness in the bigger sense—like when your career and life are on hold—goes against every dancers' natural instincts.

"Dancers are less comfortable with stillness and change than most," says TaraMarie Perri, founder and director of Perri Institute for Mind and Body and Mind Body Dancer. "Through daily discipline, we are trained to move through space and are attracted to forward momentum. Simply put, dancers are far more comfortable when they have a sense of control over the movements and when life is 'in action.' "

To regain that sense of control, and soothe some of the anxiety most of us are feeling right now, it helps to do what we know best: Get back into our bodies. Certain movements and shapes can help ground us, calm our nervous system and bring us into the present.

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