In the fall of 2000, Suzy Rossol Matheson and her father drove from Dallas, Texas to Keene, New Hampshire to embark on a life-changing adventure. The then 27 year old, armed with a BFA in Dance from Southern Methodist University, began studying Dance/Movement Therapy at Antioch New England Graduate School. It was her first time away from home and an experience “. . . that [she] will never regret.”
It seems Suzy maintains an ever present awareness of her priorities, using them to guide her desire to balance her professional and personal life. As her life changes, she generously allows priorities to shift, bringing her more in line with what she needs in the moment. Her love of dance and books about dance ultimately sparked her desire to study DMT. As a dance major and a member of a dance book club, Suzy serendipitously received a book on dance therapy by Joan Chodorow. “I remember being fascinated; I couldn't put the book down. This was my calling!” She graduated, worked to pay off some school loans - always keeping the end goal, her desire to study DMT, in mind. After perusing the various graduate programs, she chose Antioch and off she went to follow her calling.
After graduation, Suzy imagined her training would lead her down a somewhat typical path, expecting to work full-time in an agency or hospital. Suzy began using her DMT training as a counselor in a substance abuse treatment center in order to earn hours for her BC-DMT. When her daughter entered her life, she shifted her priorities once more. Suzy realized that her imagined path would not allow her to make her daughter the number one priority. Back in Texas and equipped with her BC-DMT, Suzy moved from an agency job into contract work. Today, she owns her own business. Her determination to put her daughter at the forefront of her life guides her as she chooses to work part-time and only during hours that do not conflict with her child's schedule.
The flexibility of contract work enables Suzy to meet her professional and personal needs. It also gives her the opportunity to interact with a variety of people. She works three days a week at a behavioral health hospital, and supplements the rest of her time leading monthly programs at nursing homes, assisted living centers, the Autism Treatment Center of Dallas, and the MS Society. Her lovely integration between her personal and professional lives has produced a career that is “rewarding, fun, flexible, [and] growing.” Most importantly, her life revolves around her daughter's schedule and that leads to whole-body satisfaction.
Suzy approaches her groups with conscientious thought and attention to the needs of her patients. She provides a beautiful description of her work with adults in the behavioral health unit in a hospital:
We sit in a large circle and warm-up to Santana’s “Smooth.” My goal is to contain the energy and help the patients focus. I ask them to lead a “smooth” movement individually around the circle. Bob Marley plays next and I see most clients reaching with their arms. I go through the different levels of verbalizing what I see, and then have each client put a meaning to what they are reaching for… God’s hands, children, meds to work, a woman, relieve stress, loss of control, a girlfriend, nutrition, and wellness. While they are moving/swaying, clients talk about common themes: control/loss of control. Next, clients pair up in dyads and take turns being the leader and follower. We have a discussion at the end and relate this exercise to everyday life. We close our session with the same “reaching up” gesture, reminding ourselves of our goals we shared today. I then end the group the same way I end every group: “With these hands, and this sober mind, and this heart, I can do anything!"
While she appreciates the freedom contract work gives her, Suzy acknowledges a seed of worry regarding the longevity of this type of career. Other struggles in her quest to contribute goodness to the world come from her inability to attain mental health licensure in both New Hampshire and Texas. In spite of these setbacks, Suzy still finds much to be thankful for in her life. As she shares the gift of dance with her patients, they express gratitude for her presence. Their smiles, their tears, and their moments of self-expression are rewarding. Her inspiration comes from the cocoon of loving support that surrounds her. “My family, friends, DMT colleagues, clients I meet along the way, they are my inspiration.”
As Suzy shapes her career around her daughter, her devotion to dance and dance therapy remain vibrantly clear. She served as the President of the Texas Chapter of the ADTA from 2006 to 2011, receiving an Exceptional Service Award from the ADTA for the inspiring, revitalizing, and dedicated role she has embodied. “. . . Suzy breathed new life into the chapter. She is an inspiration to DMTs in Texas and continues to play a vital role in shaping DMTs. . .” Suzy has also served as the Adaptive Dance Chair for the Dance Council of North Texas for two years. She is active is managing grants and planning Adaptive Dance workshops. Suzy continues to be a zealous advocate of the field of DMT.
It is with a spirit of fun and enthusiasm combined with a dedication to “make the world a better place” that Suzy continues to engage fully in her work as a dance therapist and as a mother. Guided by her love of dance, a serendipitous book, and a desire make her passions her priorities, Suzy Rossol Matheson is a woman with a vision.