Dance Therapy

Dance Therapy

Dance therapy, also known as movement therapy, is based on the belief that the mind, spirit, and body are all connected. The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) identifies dance therapy as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.” Dance therapy is conducted in a number of settings, including forensic centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, community centers, and private practices, among others. It may be used for individuals of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds, who may be facing a number of mental health issues, such as bereavement, depression, or addiction. It can also be used to help individuals suffering from medical, social, and physical disabilities.

Elements of Therapy

Dance therapy will vary according to the setting and the therapist. In a group setting, movement can help people to feel connected. It fosters a powerful sense of belonging, including strong emotional and social bonds between participants. Rhythmic movements are used to increase energy, lessen patient anxiety, and improve muscle strength. Participants are taught to move spontaneously, which stimulates creativity, problem solving, and new ways of acting. Of course, dance also carries with it the many benefits of physical exercise. Dance therapists may choose to address specific problems through movement techniques. In a normal session, the dance therapist will watch participants dance, encourage them to express their emotions through their movements, and sometimes he or she will imitate participant movements. The therapist may also work to help the individual connect his or her thoughts, emotions, and ideas to movements. In a group setting, the dance therapist may direct the group action and then interpret how the group dances collectively. The dance therapist may choose a specific theme to explore through dance each session, such as acceptance.

women dancing


Dance therapy can be employed to serve a number of goals. The benefits depend on the patient; however, in most cases dance therapy has a positive effect on participants’ self-esteem, body image, communication skills, and attentiveness. Physically, it helps to relieve tension, pain, and improves muscle tone, circulation, and respiration. Dance therapy has been used effectively among both adolescent and adult psychiatric patients as well as those with learning disabilities. It has also been applied to assist individuals with physical disabilities, visual or hearing impaired individuals, and seniors. It may also help those coping with a brain injury, amputation, stroke, cancer, arthritis, and AIDS. Clinical research into the effectiveness of dance therapy is still emerging, but research so far has shown positive effects.’

Fitness dance zumba class


The ADTA regulates the certifications to become a dance therapist. A master’s degree in a related field and experience dancing are two of the main requirements. For the title of Registered Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT), applicants must complete a master’s degree and 700 supervised internship hours. Those who have completed more than 3,640 hours of clinical work are eligible for the title of Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist (BC-DMT).


Dance therapy is the use of movement with a therapeutic goal. It may be conducted in group or individual settings. No prior experience dancing is required. Dance therapy has a wide variety of beneficial effects, which range from helping to foster a sense of self-esteem, to physical benefits such as decreased blood pressure. Dance therapists must practice for a minimum of 700 hours and must have a master’s degree before they may obtain certification.