Christopher Shaw was my roommate in a sublet in Washington Heights. While we were living together in 2004, this Southern boy dipped into a full six-o-clock penché while cooking an Italian meal at the stove. (If you’re new to dance, that’s a split while standing on one leg!) Through his posts on Facebook, I’ve watched him bloom as a licensed social worker, chemical dependency counselor, and psychotherapist in Austin, Texas. In Shaw’s practice — Mind, Body, & Spirit PLLC — he works with clients who experience a broad range of issues, including addiction and recovery. Recently, I caught up with him through email.
Ann Votaw: Tell me about your dance education and career.
Chris Shaw: I obtained my Bachelors in Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Minor in Advertising from Southern Methodist University in 1997. My dance career took me to fascinating cities such as Rome, Milan, Naples, Sicily, Bari, and Genova where I performed with Graham-esque modern dance company Danzare La Vita, danced on Italian television, and performed in the Italian tour of An American in Paris. I became fluent in Italian and made Rome my home for five years. After completing a two-year tour of An American in Paris, a knee injury forced my early retirement. For years afterward, I experienced a wide range of careers in various professions (Press & PR, Graphic/Web Design, Retail Manager, Airline Industry – Inflight Crew & Interpreter, Creative/Art Direction, and others); however, my addictions were always with me.
AV: What was the turning point for you?
CS: Shuttered in a cold dark basement room in New York City during the spring of 2008, I awoke to a voice saying, “This is not what you are meant to do with your life. Get help now!” I entered inpatient treatment for addiction and mental health issues where I finally admitted that I was an addict, that my life was unmanageable, and that I needed help. I have not used alcohol or drugs and have been living a life free from the horrors of active addiction since that day.
My sobriety has given me life and connected me with purpose — to be a vessel of healing for others and the world — which led me to obtain my Masters in Social Work from Wayne State University (2010). My training at WSU was centered in Clinical Social Work with a psychodynamic concentration. My research areas included the following: addiction, dual-diagnosis treatment, program development, specialized individual and group therapy, MSM and methamphetamine/high risk sexual behaviors, HIV/AIDS, and LGBTQ- Affirmative therapy.
AV: What do you do to maintain your health?
CS: For continued mental, spiritual, and physical health, I regularly engage in daily “conscious contact” with my Higher Power, ongoing 12-step fellowship activities (e.g., sponsorship, service work, step-work, meetings), and weightlifting.
AV: Are you working on anything new?
CS: I am currently enrolled at the National Academy of Sports Medicine where I am working toward my CPT (Certified Personal Trainer), CES (Corrective Exercise Specialist), and FNS (Fitness Nutrition Specialist).
AV: How has your background as a dancer benefited your work in the healing profession?
CS: Dance taught me to open my heart, express my emotions, and connect with my soul. Dance taught me to never give up and that self-discipline was essential. I learned to practice integrity, hope, faith, brotherly/sisterly love, perseverance, willingness, and humility. Dance taught me to honor and believe in myself, follow my dreams, and to create this amazing reality we call life.
[Christopher Shaw, LCSW LCDC, is the CEO of Psychotherapy for the Mind, Body, & Spirit PLLC located in Austin, TX. Christopher is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, and Psychotherapist, who offers individual, group, and family therapy for teenagers, emerging adults, and adults.]
Ann Votaw is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. “Turning Point” is her Wednesday blog dedicated to dancers and their transitions. If you liked this story, read “Turning Point: What Dancers Bring To Business That No One Else Can.” Stay tuned for more insightful interviews each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on LinkedIn. For other must-read articles on spirit and thought, follow Ann on Twitter @AnnVotaw or her blog at AnnVotaw.com.