Dance & Movement Therapy

Dance and movement therapy, or DMT, is a creative way to move toward better mental health.

What is dance and movement therapy?

According to the American Dance Therapy Association, dance/movement therapy uses movement to help people improve their overall wellbeing through mental, emotional, physical, and social integration. 

First practiced in the 1940s, DMT is based on the idea that movement is our first language, beginning in utero and continuing throughout a person’s life. The theory states that the mind, body, and spirit are interrelated and people can utilize movement to help them process and understand their emotions.

Facilitated by a master’s level clinician with a Registered Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT) credential, DMT uses movement as both the intervention method and the assessment tool. During the therapy session, the therapist will encourage a person to track their breath and bodily sensations, while using that information to explore the connection with their emotions.

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Benefits of dance and movement therapy

Dance/movement therapy offers a variety of physical and mental health benefits, and can be used in conjunction with other treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Depending on a person’s mental health needs and physical abilities, DMT can help to increase strength, improve flexibility, boost coordination, and reduce muscle tension.

Importantly, DMT has also been shown to support mental wellbeing and overall quality of life by:

  • Improving self-esteem
  • Improving interpersonal skills
  • Promoting self-awareness 
  • Promoting calm 
  • Teaching coping skills 
  • Teaching empathy 
Woman participating in dance therapy

Who should try dance and movement therapy?

Dance/movement therapy is a versatile form of treatment that’s used everywhere from nursing homes to schools to private practices to private homes. It can be done in a group, as a couple, or even on your own; it’s even possible to practice DMT while sitting or lying down. 

DMT has been shown to effectively treat a variety of mental health symptoms and conditions, including: 

While DMT has displayed clear benefits for certain mental health conditions, there are a few things to consider before you decide if dance/movement therapy is right for you. DMT tends to be more physical than other forms of therapy so it might not be the best fit (at least to start) for people with low energy levels, restricted movement, injuries, or other physical limitations. DMT can also be challenging for people who have experienced trauma and are not yet ready to explore body-based forms of treatment.

Woman participating in dance and movement therapy

Is dance and movement therapy different from regular dancing?

Dance is a sequence of movement that is often accompanied by music. For some people, dance is a performance art designed to display aesthetics and skill. For others, it’s purely a way to express themselves—an athlete’s jig after scoring a goal or a “happy dance” after acing an exam. 

Dance/movement therapy also prioritizes emotion and expression, but it’s important to remember that it’s still a type of psychotherapy. With DMT, a therapist will use the elements of dance—body awareness, rhythm, time, space, gesture, posture, and movement dynamics—as the framework for exploration and change. In addition to dancing, DMT can also involve breathing exercises, meditation, and stretching. The actual movement is up to each person, and it’s the therapist’s job to observe and facilitate the therapy session.

Dance and movement therapy at Charlie Health 

Charlie Health is committed to creating personalized treatment to help teens and adults overcome their mental health struggles. If you’re intrigued by dance/movement therapy as a form of treatment, reach out to learn more today. Our Admissions Team is available 24/7 to listen to your needs and answer any questions about our virtual Intensive Outpatient Program.

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Comprehensive mental health treatment from home

90% of Charlie Health clients and their families would recommend Charlie Health