By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Brigit Catalanotti has been dancing since the age of 4. As a dance movement therapist, she continues to use her passion for dance to help others.
While attending Assumption College in Worcester, Catalanotti studied human services and social rehabilitation. She knew she would be involved with helping children some day.
“The program there was extraordinary and in my senior year, when I had to do an internship, I worked at Why Me and Sherry’s House in Worcester,” she recalled. “The house supports children and families with cancer. This nonprofit gave me a great experience and insight as to what I wanted to do and I fell in love with the organization. I believe this is where I found my true calling.”
Catalanotti received her Master of Arts degree in dance movement therapy and applied psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, N.H. There she completed two internships – the first with Y.O.U, Inc., an alternative program in Millbury for struggling adolescents between 12 and 18. The second internship was at Boston Children’s Martha Elliot Health Center in the Early Intervention Program for newborns to children up to age 3. This was a home-based program where she also worked with the caregiver.
“For me, this was confirmation that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I love working with children and being able to make a difference in their lives. I find that so rewarding,” said Catalanotti.
Currently, she teaches hip-hop, jazz and tap two evenings a week at Dance It Up in Grafton.
She is also a registered dance movement therapist at Enlightened Interventions, LLC in Worcester. There, her clients range in age from 2 to 12 and they have diverse backgrounds. Some have anxiety, or suffer from mental illness, PTSD, sexual abuse, neglect, or physical and emotional abuse. Clients are referred to her from the Department of Children and Families, another social services agency, a teacher or other third party.
“Some of these children cannot verbalize their feelings or emotions,” she explained. “Many have been in situations of trauma. I help to provide a safe space and a positive relationship for them. This takes time to establish. I incorporate art, music, movement (expressive arts) into each 60-minute session.”
Director Elizabeth Belliveau, MSW, LICSW, has allowed Catalanotti to develop her own style within the frameworks of the program, which has helped her gain confidence through her work.
“The beauty of Dance Movement Therapy is that it provides an outlet for these children to express themselves. Whether using play dough, drawing, scarves and more, I help to create a healing experience where the child can feel safe and express that they are. During this time, I am also helping to implement coping skills to help deal with anger,” said Catalanotti.
Many of her clients are also in foster care. There are occasions where their caregivers are seeking assistance with how they, too, can provide support for open communication. Some of these techniques are helpful for them.
“Through your mind and body, healing and overall wellbeing can be achieved,” Catalanotti said. “I love what I do. It can be challenging to hear the backgrounds and what some of these children have been exposed to. However, when I get to witness little breakthroughs, like a smile, well, that can be most rewarding. It takes time and patience. This work does not happen overnight.”