Dance/Movement Therapy


“Dance/Movement Therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration of individuals.”
American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), n.d.

Creative arts therapies are “….nonverbal modalities that draw on the sensory, affective experiences of their participants, and encourage reminiscence, self-expression and socialization.”

– (Johnson, Lahey and Shore, 1992, p. 271)

Benefits of Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT)

  • Complements and supports a multi-disciplinary team approach within the healthcare setting
  • Increases cognition
  • Promotes the feeling of control over one’s own body and body movements
  • Engages sensory systems, yielding increased well-being and focus
  • Increases socialization
  • Provides a safe space in which to express and process thoughts and feeling states
  • Elicits reminiscence activity/sharing of memories
  • Cultivates a support system
  • Promotes overall relaxation
  • Encourages physical exertion (although there are sessions with limited movement involvement as the verbal processing becomes the focus of the group and/or the members are unwilling/physically unable to move)

Evidence supports that sensory stimulation leads to biochemical changes in the brain.
(Maddock, Garrett and Buonocore, 2001)


As humans process and respond to stimuli, the mind and the body are linked. (Berrol, 1992)

The auditory, motoric, visual and tactile sensory modalities are accessed through the expression of movement. Thus, DMT influences the physical, emotional and cognitive areas of function through engagement of the sensory systems.
(Berrol and Katz, 1985)

Themes that often emerge and are then explored within the DMT session

  • Loss
  • Dependency
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Fears
  • Relationships and support systems


  • DMT sessions are facilitated with persons of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds
  • Each member is encouraged to participate at his or her own pace/comfort level
  • Appropriate music of the group’s choice may be played in the background to provide structure, rhythmic synchrony and a sense of comfort among members
  • Memories and feeling states that are stored in the body and mind are accessed through movement and validated by the members
  • DMT is most effective with groups of 12-15 persons. Smaller or larger groups are beneficial as well, provided that most members do not require 1:1 attention and/or are not markedly cognitively impaired. Much smaller sessions provide the structure and containment that these individuals would require.
  • DMT sessions can be facilitated in many different types of settings (recreation rooms of healthcare establishments, wellness centers, places of worship, hospital rooms, psychiatric units, schools and classrooms, community centers, etc.)
  • Members are situated in a circle formation prior to the start of the DMT session
  • The entire DMT session is often seat-based for older adults and/or the physically disabled

Text references