Dance Movement Therapy Benefits and Conditions Treated by DMT
Using dance and movement as assessment tools and as a means of expression, communication, and behavior adaptation, DMT is effective in treating individuals, couples, families, and groups. Today dance movement therapy is practiced in a wide range of settings, including hospitals and rehab centers, mental health facilities, daycares, nursing homes, general health programs, and private practice.
History of Dance/Movement Therapy
For decades, dance/movement therapists have recognized the intimate link between the mind and body and how they interact in both sickness and health. Historically, dance has been at the heart of ceremonial, religious, and rituals of numerous cultures.
In the Western world, dance emerged as a complement to conventional therapies in the early 1940s, while the American Dance Therapy Association was established in 1956 with the goal of maintaining high standards in the field of dance therapy. In 1993, the Office of Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health provided a research grant to explore dance therapy in the treatment of medical illnesses.
Today, over 1,500 practitioners worldwide are licensed as Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapists (BC-DMT) and/or Registered Dance/Movement Therapists (R-DMT).
Populations and Conditions Benefiting from Dance Movement Therapy include:
1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Dance movement therapy allows Individuals with PTSD to better understand their mind and body, improve the mind/body connection, explore and express their feelings, and develop more control over their emotions and their reactions to negative thoughts and events. DMT is a highly effective tool for stress reduction and can help people feel more grounded and centered.
Dance therapy for cancer patients provides a physical outlet for stress and muscle tension, improves mobility and coordination, offers interpersonal interaction, and serves an outlet for expressing and communicating feelings and emotions. In addition, the muscular activity and physiological processes of dance and movement may strengthen the immune system and help prevent disease. A study of breast cancer survivors found that participants in a 12-week dance therapy class benefited as follows:
- Increased range of motion
- Enhanced body image perception
- Boosted self-esteem and self-conception
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Reduced depression
- Decrease in isolation
- Better communication skills
- Improved feelings of well-being
Finally, some cancer patients report that dance therapy gives them a sense of renewal, hope, and wholeness.
3. Parkinson’s Disease
Not only is dance an enjoyable way to stay physically fit, but for people with Parkinson’s Disease, the rhythm and repetitive motions are said to help them rediscover their lost movements. Specifically, dance can help with:
- Motor symptoms such as gait difficulties, freezing episodes, bradykinesia, and start hesitation
- Maintain a stead pace
- Reduce tremors and involuntary movements (dyskinesia)
- Learn to synchronize and control activity/start and complete patterns and sequences of movement
- Build confidence
4. Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia
For Alzheimer patients, dance/movement offers:
- Playful, non-threatening environment
- Venue for non-verbal self-expression
- Pathway for possibly accessing and triggering memories
- Inspires creativity
- Allows Alzheimer patients to bring their own stories to life and share with others
- Emotionally safe atmosphere, countering the anxiety dementia sufferers often experience
- Means of connecting with others
- Feeling of aliveness
- Grounding in the here-and-now
5. Dance Classes and Movement Therapy for Children
Dance classes and movement therapy for children are increasingly popular, with myriads of physical, emotional, psychological, and social benefits. Dance therapy for kids is offered in schools, after-school programs, rehab centers, community centers, mental health settings, and more.
In addition to improving overall physical fitness and ability, movement and dance therapy for kids offer the following benefits:
- Improved coordination
- Increased confidence
- Boost in self-esteem
- Improved fine motor skills
- Greater ability to control impulses
- Outlet for emotional outbursts such as temper-tantrums
- Improved communication skills
- Greater self-expression
- Enhanced social skills
Dance movement therapy is especially effective for children with autism, who normally are unable to or find it difficult to communicate with others. Through dance and movement, they are able to express themselves and receive feedback.
A great way to keep physically active and have fun, dance movement therapy includes stretching, balancing, coordination, core-strengthening, seated and standing exercises, moves, twists, turns, bends, and more. From tap and modern to jazz, ballet, tango, Latin, hip-hop, square dancing, salsa, and more, DMT will benefit you in a myriad of health-promoting ways.