Dance Therapy

Original Editors - Safiya Naz , Rucha Gadgil Top Contributors - Rucha Gadgil and Safiya Naz  

Description[edit | edit source]

Dance Base.png

Dance is an symbolized interest and approached therapeutically it can have several certain health related benefits[1]. Dance/movement therapy (DMT), is a type of therapy that uses movement to help individuals achieve emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration. Though it falls under the terms of psychotherapy, it can be beneficial to physiotherapists to treat movement disorders like Parkinson's. At it's core, DMT is influenced by:

  • Psychodynamic theory
  • Gestalt's theory
  • humanistic theory of psychotherapy[2].

DMT offers a way to work through issues that are difficult to articulate or are buried in the unconscious because they are painful, frightening, or simply difficult to access and address through cognitive means. (DMT) is an established profession and defined by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA)[3], as a method to therapeutically to strengthen the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual(ADTA,2013; the European Association adds the ‘spiritual integration’to this list; EADMT, 2013).

How does it work?[edit | edit source]

Dance interventions aim to aid the patients in achieving greater postural and balance control[4]. DMT is based on the theoretical interdependence between movement and emotion[5].

The psychological and physical improvements can be categorized into five areas[6]:

  1. Ballet dancer-en pointe.jpg
    resocialization and integration within a larger group system;
  2. nonverbal creative expression for emotional expression;
  3. total self- and body-awareness and enhanced self-esteem;
  4. muscular coordination, broader movement capabilities and tension release; and
  5. enjoyment through relaxation.


Dancing engages extensive areas of the cerebral cortex as well as several deep brain structures. A recent descriptive systematic review demonstrated changes in brain structure following dance intervention. These changes included[1]:

  1. increased hippocampal and parahippocampal volume (involved in memory),
  2. increased gray matter volume in the precentral gyrus (involved in motor control) and white matter integrity in the corpus callosum (involved in communication between the two hemispheres).


Dance/movement therapists assess body language, non-verbal behaviors, and emotional expressions. Interventions often include[1]:

  • Utilizing “mirroring” (matching/echoing the person's movements) to illustrate empathy for an individual and validation of his or her experience.
  • Incorporating jumping rhythms into a dance with a group of people experiencing depression because research has shown decreased levels of vertical movement in people with depression.
  • Making use of a “movement metaphor” to help a person physically demonstrate a therapeutic challenge or achievement (e.g. the therapist gives the person in treatment a white flag prop to help him or her celebrate an emotional surrender).

Uses[edit | edit source]

DMT is increasingly used to treat a variety of behavioral, psychological, and medical conditions to promote insight, integration and well-being, as well as to diminish undesirable symptoms. Studies have shown dance to be important in planning executive decisions.

Dance/movement therapy is a versatile form of therapy founded on the idea that motion and emotion are interconnected. The creative expression of dance therapy can bolster communication skills and inspire dynamic relationships. It is commonly used to treat physical, psychological, cognitive, and social issues such as:

Physical Issues:

Mental Health Issues:

Cognitive Issues:

Principles[edit | edit source]

DMT is conducted by a certified therapist and is known bring positive changes over a wide range of patient population. They adhere to the following theoretical principles[13][14]:

  • Body and mind are interconnected so that a change in one impacts the other.
  • Movement can express aspects of the personality.
  • Part of the therapeutic relationship is communicated through non-verbal means.
  • Movements can be symbolic and can represent unconscious material/processes.
  • Movement improvisation/experimentation can bring about new ways of being.

They aim to[15]:

  • Facilitate life-span development.
  • Prevent, diagnose, and treat issues that interfere with healthy functioning.
  • Assess, evaluate, and develop treatment goals.
  • Implement planned interventions.
  • Develop and adjust treatment to continuously meet the needs of the client.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

DMT is till an evolving field with many unexplored areas. However, its's growing influence cannot be denied.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Koch SC, Riege RF, Tisborn K, Biondo J, Martin L, Beelmann A. Effects of dance movement therapy and dance on health-related psychological outcomes. A meta-analysis update. Frontiers in psychology. 2019 Aug 20;10:1806.
  2. Cruz, R. F. Perspectives on the profession of dance/movement therapy: past, present, and future. Bulletin of Psychology and the Arts, 2001. 2(2), 74-78.
  3. http://www.adta.org/
  4. Salgado, R., de Paula Vasconcelos, L.A. The Use of Dance in the Rehabilitation of a Patient with Multiple Sclerosis. Am J Dance Ther 32, 53–63 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10465-010-9087-x
  5. Karkou V, Aithal S, Zubala A and Meekums B . Effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy in the Treatment of Adults With Depression: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analyses. Front. Psychol. 2019;10:936. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00936
  6. Valverde-Guijarro E, Alguacil-Diego I, Vela-Desojo L, Cano-de-la-Cuerda R. Effects of contemporary dance and physiotherapy intervention on balance and postural control in Parkinson’s disease, Disability and Rehabilitation, 2020. DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2020.1839973
  7. Aktas G, Ogce F. Dance as a therapy for cancer prevention. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2005 Jul-Sep;6(3):408-11. PMID: 16236009.
  8. Koch, S. C., Morlinghaus, K., & Fuchs, T. The joy dance: specific effects of a single dance intervention on psychiatric patients with depression. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 2007; 340-349.
  9. Savidaki, M., Demirtoka, S. & Rodríguez-Jiménez, RM. Re-inhabiting one’s body: A pilot study on the effects of dance movement therapy on body image and alexithymia in eating disorders. J Eat Disord 8, 22 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-020-00296-2
  10. Koshland, L., & Wittaker, J. B. PEACE through dance/movement: evaluating a violence prevention program. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 2004; 26(2), 69-89.
  11. Dayanim, S. The acute effects of a specialized movement program on the verbal abilities of patients with late-stage dementia. Alzheimer's Care Today, 2009;10(2), 93-98.
  12. Scharoun, S. M., Reinders, N. J., Bryden, P. J., & Fletcher, P. C. Dance/movement therapy as an intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 209-228. doi:10.1007/s10465-014-9179-0
  13. Meekums, B. Dance movement therapy: a creative psychotherapeutic approach. 2002. London, England: Sage Publications.
  14. Payne, H. Dance movement therapy: theory and practice. 1992; New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.
  15. Levy, F. J. Dance Movement Therapy: A Healing Art. Reston, VA: The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. 1988.