Dance Movement Therapy
How can dance movement therapy nourish your soul?
The mind and body are inherently connected. The brain is often thought to be the control centre for the body, but the reality is that there is an intricate two-way system in which the brain is also directly impacted by how the body moves.
Dance movement therapy (DMT) recognises this intimate mind-body connection, and uses dance and movement as a form of therapy to improve physical, emotional, cognitive and social wellbeing. Movements used vary from yoga poses and stretching, to mirroring and jumping. Increasing evidence shows that DMT holds therapeutic potential for a wide range of concerns.
Dance therapists are qualified professionals that assess body language and movement behaviours using a type of “movement vocabulary.” By creating a safe and confidential space for people to express themselves, dance therapists facilitate the effective communication of both conscious and unconscious feelings through movement instead of words. DMT therapists recognise that verbal communication is not always the preferred or only way to address issues, and instead rely on a participant’s movements to develop tailored treatment interventions.
The cultural roots of this therapy date back millennia. Dance and movement as a form of self-expression, communication and celebration has been everlasting. Although DMT was introduced as a profession to Australia in the 1970s, dance for healing has been ubiquitous in the Indigenous Australian culture from very early in human history.
In Australia today, the Dance Movement Therapy Association of Australasia (DTAA) is the recognised professional body for DMT. The DTAA set the standards for the training, research and professional practice of this therapy.
Benefits of dance movement therapy
Mounting evidence suggests DMT can provide extensive benefits for both our physical body and mental health. These benefits can be accessed by people in all health and wellbeing circumstances, and no prior dance knowledge is required.
A recently published review reported that DMT was an effective treatment modality for adults with depression. Other studies have also suggested that DMT can help to improve psychological outcomes, decrease anxiety and depression, refine interpersonal and cognitive skills and increase quality of life.
The principal findings from a review of 51 studies suggested that DMT had a positive short-term impact on the mental health and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Another study has also found that DMT holds therapeutic potential for older adults with mild dementia.
Dance movement dherapy may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Arthritis, rheumatism and osteoarthritis
- Balance, stability and coordination
- Body dysmorphia
- Communication and self-expression
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Dementia and alzheimer's
- Flexibility, endurance and strength
- Heart conditions and heart attack
- Mental health
- Mobility and movement
- Pain relief
- PTSD and trauma
- Stress and tension
- Weight control and obesity
What to expect from a dance movement therapy session
As dance therapists may work with individuals or groups in a variety of clinical, institutional, community or private settings, the precise details of what to expect may vary. Regardless of the setting, your dance therapist should provide you with a safe space in which to express yourself.
There are a variety of techniques and styles of dance or movement, and each therapist will find his or her own way to tailor treatment interventions to meet your specific needs and abilities. Some of the movement activities may involve mirroring, movement metaphors or jumping rhythms.
For example, a therapist may use mirroring techniques to match or echo your movement patterns. This is a way to express empathy and validate your feelings by allowing you to see a perfect reflection of yourself. Other techniques such as jumping rhythms may be used to assist with symptoms of depression. Dance therapists are diverse in their approach, and no two DMT sessions will look the same.
If you are considering DMT it is important to look for a qualified therapist. The DTAA provides a host of information to help you find a dance therapist with the skills and experience to match your needs.
Keep in mind that it is always advisable to consult a qualified health professional before commencing any wellness journey. If you have an injury or an underlying health issue, speak to your dance therapist, who will be happy to address these concerns and personalise the therapy session to your individual requirements.