Dance movement therapy is a form of psychotherapy that utilizes dance and movement to improve both mental and physical health. It’s based on the idea that the mind and body are interrelated, so when one is affected, the other will be too. Through this therapy, people can work towards improved wellness by developing strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, self-expression and social skills.
In order to improve one’s overall wellbeing, dance movement therapy can be an expressive form of healing that encourages physical and mental health.
People can use dance movements to express their feelings and emotions to facilitate self-expression, creativity, and connection with their inner selves through sessions with a trained professional.
How does it work?
It seems that dance therapy promotes health by unifying and coordinating all aspects of a person, such as:
In dance, nonverbal communication is as important as verbal communication.
Additionally to serving as a means of communication, movement can also be expressive, functional, or developmental.
Assessment and intervention can both be accomplished through movement.
Possible beneficial effects
Research on the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of dance therapy is inconclusive. Although more studies are necessary, some evidence suggests it may be beneficial in the following areas:
The results of a 2019 meta-analysis that looked at 41 clinical trials and involved 2,374 participants indicated that dance therapy improves:
There is also a possibility that these benefits might be long-term, including anxiety, depression, quality of life, and cognitive skills.
In contrast to the above meta-analysis, a 2019 review evaluated eight clinical trials that examined dance therapy’s effects on 351 adults struggling with depression.
The authors characterized the evidence as moderate to high quality and concluded that the intervention might offer an effective treatment for adults with depression. As most of the included studies excluded children, teenagers, and older adults, they could not assess its effectiveness for these populations.
By improving gait, balance, and muscle strength, the authors of a 2017 review examined whether dance, a popular pursuit among older adults, can help prevent falls. As falls are a leading cause of illness and death, the authors reviewed 10 clinical trials that explored the possibility of dance preventing falls. Total participant numbers were 680.
The authors note that dance appears to be safe and demonstrates benefits for well-being among older adults, despite the preliminary nature of their results and the lack of long-term data.
A 2018 review examined 40 studies and five reviews investigating the effects of dance and music on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which impairs gait, which can increase the risk of falls. The results indicated that the interventions might improve gait.
Care for cancer patients
As well as affecting physical health, cancer often affects emotions and socialization. In order to address these issues, current cancer care increasingly includes psychosocial interventions. A 2015 study examined three clinical trials involving 207 individuals with breast cancer in order to examine the benefits of dance therapy for cancer.
In the data analysis, mixed results were found, but the intervention might help by:
However, it found no evidence that dance therapy can reduce somatization, which is the presentation of multiple physical symptoms caused by psychological factors.
A 2021 review found that dance therapy could improve quality of life for people with breast cancer, but noted that this therapy might be more effective when combined with other therapies.
In 2020, a meta-analysis of five clinical trials examined the effects of dance therapy on blood pressure. Despite the small number of trials, the results indicated that the intervention could significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
A systolic blood pressure reading indicates pressure on the arterial walls during heartbeats, while a diastolic reading indicates pressure between heartbeats.
People from Africa seem to benefit more from dance therapy than those from Europe or America, according to the results.
Chronic heart condition
Individuals with chronic, or ongoing, heart failure were compared with conventional therapy in an older 2014 study. It evaluated two investigations that involved 62 dance therapy participants, 60 exercise participants, and 61 control participants.
A comparison of dance therapy with exercise and no exercise found that dance therapy increased exercise capacity and quality of life. According to the authors, dance therapy did not significantly differ from conventional exercise groups in terms of outcomes. Therefore, dance therapy should be included in cardiac rehabilitation programs.