Dance Movement Therapy

Dance involves direct expression through the body and research indicates that it is a powerful medium for therapy.  Dance movement therapy (DMT) is a creative-art therapy that provides an outlet for communication in which furthers the emotional, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual.  DMT is practiced individually, in groups, or with the client’s family. 

The goals of DMT include assessing patient needs, communicating emotions, improving self-control, organizing thoughts and actions, developing interpersonal skills, integrating physical and emotional selves, promoting body awareness, and supporting healing.  Supporting positive changes in one’s body image is a significant goal in DMT.  Technical aspects of dance are not a main concern.  Examples of individuals benefiting from DMT are individuals with developmental, medical, social, physical and psychological impairments.

The focus of DMT is on “the general process of connecting internal feeling with external expression.” Movement allows for the verification of the unconscious process in a symbolic way.  Symbolic interaction becomes a vital part of the therapeutic work, which may be meaningful to the client and the therapist.  Symbols have multiple meanings for each individual. Examples include personal touch, individual eye contact with the therapist or other group members, facial expressions (smiling and frowning), and/or body movements.  Symbols enable a therapist to access material in which is not easily accessible.  Focusing on the value of one’s actions rather than what the action itself holds true for non-verbal communication through DMT.

DMT allows changes in feelings, cognition, physical functioning, and behavior in the body and mind of the individual. The mind-body relationship emphasized in DMT corresponds with the holistic approach occupational therapists base therapeutic treatment approaches.  DMT focuses on the connection between the mind and body to promote health and healing.  DMT values creativity and the individuality of the client.

DMT is an expressive therapy through the therapeutic use of movement to improve the mental and physical well-being of a person with varying conditions.  Movement, posture, gesture, and action are the first modes of expression in individuals and continue to be operative during our entire lives.  With the focus of dance as nonverbal expression, interaction, and communication, individuals are making sense of human behaviors on a nonverbal, expressive level.  Dance is a standard for enabling communication in DMT.  DMT is based on the belief that the mind and body work together.  Movement becomes the result of free choices and the dancer can be artistic in translating what the body is, what it can do, and what it can convey by pushing away the boundaries of limitation, whether the movement be self- or externally imposed.



Erfer, T., & Ziv, A. (2006). Moving toward cohesion: Group dance/movement therapy with children in psychiatry. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 33, 238-246. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2006.01.001

Karkou, V., & Sanderson, P. (2001). Dance movement therapy in the United Kingdom: A field emerging from dance education. European Physical Education Review, 3, 137-151. doi:10.1177/1356336X010072003

Koch, S. C., & Fischman, D. (2011). Embodied enactive dance/movement therapy. American Dance Therapy Association, 33, 57-72. doi: 10.1007/s10465-011-9108-4

Zilius, M. N. (2010). Dance/movement therapy in pediatrics. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 7, 87-91. doi: 10.1089/act.2010.16202



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