Dance Movement Therapy for Mind-Body Wellness

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Dance is a universal language that transcends boundaries and connects people from different cultures, races, and backgrounds. It is neither only a form of entertainment nor only a way to keep fit, but a powerful therapeutic tool promoting physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) is a unique form of therapy that combines the art of dance with the science of psychology to help individuals express their emotions, improve their self-esteem, and develop better communication skills. This article will explore the history, benefits, and techniques of DMT.

What is Dance Movement Therapy (DMT)?

Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) is a form of psychotherapy that uses movement and dance to facilitate the individuals’ emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration. It is a creative and holistic approach that the body and mind are interconnected, and that physical movement can facilitate psychological and emotional healing. DMT is used in various therapeutic settings, including hospitals, mental health centers, rehabilitation centers, schools, and community centers.

Today, DMT is recognized as a legitimate form of therapy practiced by trained professionals skilled in dance and psychotherapy.

History of Dance Movement Therapy

Dance has been used for healing and self-expression for thousands of years. In ancient civilizations such as Greece and India, dance was considered a ritual that could heal the body, mind, and soul. In the 20th century, dance was used by psychologists and psychotherapists to help patients with mental illnesses express their emotions and cope with their symptoms. DMT was officially recognized as a form of therapy in the 1940s when Marian Chace, a professional dancer, began using dance to treat patients with mental health issues. Chace’s work laid the foundation for DMT to treat conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction.

Benefits of Dance Movement Therapy

DMT is a form of therapy that offers numerous benefits for both physical and mental health. Here are some of how DMT can help individuals:

  1. Enhances emotional expression: DMT provides a safe and supportive environment for people to express their emotions through movement. This can be particularly helpful for individuals who struggle to express themselves verbally, such as those with autism or developmental disabilities.
  2. Improves self-esteem: Through dance, individuals can develop greater self-awareness and self-esteem. DMT can help individuals feel more comfortable in their bodies and more confident in their ability to express themselves.
  3. Promotes physical health: DMT is an exercise form that can improve heart health and increase the flexibility and strength of muscles. It also helps in reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes.
  4. Reduces stress and anxiety: DMT can effectively reduce stress and anxiety by helping individuals release tension and negative emotions through movement.
  5. Improves communication skills: DMT can help individuals improve their communication skills by using nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions, to express their emotions and connect with others.

Techniques Used in Dance Movement Therapy

DMT involves a variety of techniques that are tailored to the individual’s needs and goals. Here are some common techniques used in DMT:

  1. Free movement: This involves allowing the individual to move freely and express themselves through movement without any specific instructions.
  2. Guided movement: This involves the therapist providing specific instructions for movement to help the individual explore their emotions and express themselves more intently.
  3. Improvisation involves the individual creating spontaneous movements in response to the therapist’s prompts or music.
  4. Choreography involves the individual learning and performing specific dance movements or routines designed to address specific therapeutic goals.
  5. Mirroring: This involves the therapist and the individual mirroring each other’s movements to build rapport and promote empathy.
  6. Role-playing involves the individual taking on a specific role or character through movement to explore their emotions and gain insight into their own experiences.
  7. Props and objects: This involves using props and objects such as scarves, balls, or chairs to enhance movement and provide a sensory experience.

How Dance Movement Therapy Is Used In Practice

Dance Movement Therapy can be used in various therapeutic settings, from hospitals and mental health clinics to schools and community centers. Here are a few examples of how Dance Movement Therapy is used in practice:

  1. Mental Health Treatment: Dance Movement Therapy can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan for individuals with mental health conditions like anxiety. It can be used in both individual and group settings and can be particularly effective when combined with other forms of therapy like talk therapy or medication.
  2. Physical Therapy: Dance Movement Therapy can also be used as a physical therapy form, helping individuals improve their physical function and mobility. It can be particularly helpful for people with conditions that impact movements, such as Parkinson’s disease or stroke.
  3. Education: Dance Movement Therapy can be used in schools and educational settings to help students develop self-awareness, emotional

DMT is particularly effective in helping individuals who have experienced trauma, abuse, or other psychological distress. Movement and dance provide nonverbal communication that can help individuals express and process their emotions in a safe and supportive environment. By engaging in physical movement, individuals can release pent-up emotions and tension, improve their body awareness, and develop a sense of control and mastery over their bodies.

DMT For Anxiety, Depression, PTSD

DMT can also effectively treat various mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and addiction. In these cases, DMT is often used with other therapy forms, such as talk therapy. The physical activity involved in DMT can help increase endorphins, the body’s natural mood boosters, and decrease cortisol levels associated with stress.

In addition to its use in mental health settings, DMT is also used in rehabilitation centers to help individuals recover from physical injuries or disabilities. Movement and dance can help individuals to improve their range of motion, build strength and endurance, and develop a sense of body awareness. DMT can also be used to help individuals with neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease or to improve their motor skills and balance.

DMT is also used in educational settings to promote social and emotional learning. Children and adolescents can learn to express their emotions healthily and constructively, build self-esteem and confidence, and develop social skills such as cooperation and empathy by engaging in movement and dance.

Non Verbal Form Of Therapy

One of the unique aspects of DMT is that it is a nonverbal form of therapy. This can particularly benefit individuals who have difficulty expressing themselves through words, such as children or individuals with developmental disabilities. By using movement and dance as a form of communication, DMT can help individuals connect with others meaningfully and develop a sense of belonging and community.

DMT can take many forms, depending on the needs and goals of the individual. In some cases, DMT may involve improvisational movement or free dance, where individuals are encouraged to move in an authentic and expressive way. In other cases, DMT may involve structured movement sequences or choreographed dances designed to address specific physical or emotional goals.

In a DMT session, the therapist is a facilitator and guide, providing support and encouragement as individuals explore their movement and emotions. The therapist may use different techniques, such as mirroring, role-playing, or guided imagery, to help individuals access and process their emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

Dance Movement Therapy is a creative and holistic approach that can address various physical, emotional, and social issues. Its use in therapeutic settings is growing and is effective in treating many mental health and physical conditions. By using movement and dance as a form of communication and expression, DMT can help individuals to process their emotions, improve their physical health, and develop a sense of community and belonging.

Here we discuss with DMT expert Manasi Anand from Singapore, who shares how this holistic therapy helps mind-body wellness.

NourishDoc: Hello, everyone, and happy new year. Today, we bring a very interesting topic: infusing Dance Therapy with physiotherapy for the mind, body, and wellness, which Mansi Anand has been doing for the last decade and joining me live from Singapore. Thank you so much, and welcome Mansi.

Dance Movement Expert Mansi: Thank you, Amita for inviting me and happy new year to you and everybody who is watching and will be watching this. Thank you for the introduction as well. So, let’s get started; I’m excited, yes, for this.

Infusing Physiotherapy With Dance Therapy

NourishDoc: All right, I know you, you’ve been trained as a physiotherapist and then later on, you decided to venture into dance therapy and bring dance therapy into your practice. Could you explain why you decided to do that?

Dance Movement Expert Mansi: So, I essentially trained as a physiotherapist. My core base is physiotherapy in the hospitals, in the clinic, and working with elderly population people who have a stroke or who are bound. I’ve seen all sorts of the population. When I was working in Mumbai at that time at the center, I was just invited as a physiotherapist to observe a dance therapy session for people who who have differently able.

So that time, I thought of introducing dance because I saw that they were dancing despite being unable to walk or stand. They were so happy, and the joy and the effectiveness of that entire session intrigued me to get to know more about dance therapy is when I went on to for study to get a certificate in Dance Therapy, and that’s how I started the entire process of the entire team of that strategy was like open to me. I just stumbled upon it, and I’m glad that I did.

So it’s something that, it’s very relevant to today’s age and time. It’s something we should know more about; only a few people know about the effectiveness of the transplant in this aspect of life. So, that is what my work is, has been apart from conducting workshops and recessions; again, I like to talk about it, like with yourself here, so that people get to know more about what exactly is in self-awareness about subjects and the effectiveness of we all know that dance is very very what can I say? It’s good.

DMT Makes You Feel Good

It makes you feel good. But when you consciously use movement and dance for a specific sing or target, that’s when it becomes more effective, and that is what the entire process of Dance Therapy is. It requires training only a little everybody unless you go to that training, you go through the psychological aspect of it; it’s not that you cannot put it into action as such.

Who Can Benefit From DMT?

NourishDoc: Okay. So I know that, and let’s understand a little about dance therapy, what kind of health ailments you have been helping, and different types of age groups. So we want to understand if it only focuses on seniors or women, pregnant women, women with PCOS, or whatever demographic we’re discussing. That’s number one. And number two is what type of different ailments, for example, from depression too, like you said, stroke patients? Could you elaborate a little bit on that?

Dance Movement Expert Mansi: Yes. So, what is exactly Dance Therapy? Again, I’ll start with the basics. It is essentially psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance in different aspects. And these aspects are what we can say; we can use them. It either is the physically to help us physically or mentally; in the physical aspect, like in Parkinson’s patiently able, you can use movements because their weight is imbalanced or relationship, enhance their health, you can use it and the mental benefits the whole diet the spectrum is very wide.

So dance movement therapy is essentially a part of expressive art therapy. So like, there are cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and many other types of therapy in expressive art therapy. So if you Google, you will find there is music therapy that is art therapy, and then there is dance therapy as well. So that’s where the entire category is. So it is used for anxiety relief, panic disorders, and people with eating disorders, communication issues, and depression.

So the wide range of any mental health issues you can cover can be used as an adjunct to the traditional form of therapy like a traditional form of soft therapy like psychotherapy or counseling; you can combine it with that or visit individually. So what happens is I usually get patients; it’s not like, I’ll sometimes do I collaborate, but sometimes, I’ve had people approach me that I am going for business. If I have tried the top therapy, I’m going through it, but I want something more.

I want to experience this aspect because what happens in dance chemotherapy is not just talk, right? You are using the body; you are using the movement. So, it’s like a non-verbal form of communication. Movement is essential, and when you are, when you are on, you don’t talk. You convey via movement, via expression. So, movement is like a language. Movement is like our first plan. So, we harness that, and we use that in that. So, that is the essential premise of it.

So, there have been many studies again being done on therapy. It is also a licensed profession in countries like USA, Canada, Australia, and even in India, it is upcoming. Singapore is not a licensed profession, but some people do art and music therapy. I am one of the few people here doing dance movement therapy, but yes, it’s an upcoming field worldwide. But it’s a licensed profession in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK.

So it was essentially the benefits of dance therapy discovered by Marian Faith in 1940. So this entire concept is not that new. It’s been around since the nineteen forties. Then the American Dance Therapy Association was founded on that premise, and that’s how the entire team grew. From the US to the UK to India now. so everywhere, it’s upcoming. especially during the pandemic. It has been booming now because of so much special around people on the mental end of mental health aspects.

DMT For Children & Elderly Alike

They are the uses of that therapy are wide. It can be used in children. It can be used in the elderly, and as you said, I work with women. The PCOS so I conduct a dance movement therapy session for women who have PCOS and who are mentally and physically depressed they have a physical health issue. So physically, the movement and the dance help them. Mentally also, there is a boost or there is an uplift.

There is a connection between the mind and body because they are so disconnected from their minds and bodies that there is a disconnect and feelings of low self-esteem. So it all helps with the processes helps with that, and they help the mind and the body. That is a primary basis of dance therapy that the mind and body are connected; that is the premise that you cannot separate the two. I would also like to speak about the mind and body connection because I am talking.

So, we all know that the mind affects the body, and we all know that what can I say? So why are mindfulness and meditation controlling the mind? You can take care of your body, but your body is also sending signals to your brain. So, it’s not just a one-way feed; it’s a two-way connection. So, mine definitely impacts our body, but our body and signals also impact the mind. So, it’s like, for example, our gut. Our gut is it’s like called a second wave, it has sensory resistance cells, and it also produces hormones like serotonin and it sends signals to our brain.

So, you say that the gut feeling in which our body senses anxiety, we may sometimes some people feel anxious, and there is some movement in the gut, and that’s how sensitive the body is. And we are somewhere with our technology and so many things, we always make up our minds. So I always say that, whether it is thinking something.

So, from the mind, we have to get back to the bone. That is the power of the body and the movement. So, if I know that my body is affecting the mind. So, I am going to use movement. Then I will connect with my mind to make myself feel better, and that’s how the mind-body connection is established. So this is the premise of any dance movement therapy session or workshop. This is how this is the Semicon on which I build my entire sessions conducted.

What Movements Or Dance Are Included In DMT?

NourishDoc: Great information, and quite honestly, all the holistic medicine therapies are fundamentally talking about the mind and the body connection, as you said on the dance therapy. Let’s just understand a little about a typical session, right? So what kind of dance are we talking about? Talking about hip-hop or just going dancing on a Saturday night here.

So, we’re talking more as a therapeutic movement which we all love to do when we want to have little fun, but in this case, we are talking about the therapy part. So would it be different for a woman suffering from PCOS than an older person probably having heart health issues? So talk to us briefly about what the dance means in this. What does kind of movement mean in this?

Dance Movement Expert Mansi: Right. So as I’ll tell you, I think that’s a great question, and that question is, like, I think it should be clarified and told again and again. So, dancing for fun is useful, and like if you go on Saturday night and it’s going to increase your serotonin levels, but it will make you feel good. But when you consciously use it in the therapeutic aspects, the benefits are greater, and when it comes to a typical session.

So, a typical I will tell you in two aspects what happens in the typical workshop when there are a group of people, not just one person. There are a group of people. So what do I usually how do I start? So we start with some form of again one movement so that just the warm-up and the movements are vigorous, and it may be if there is no; I would like to clarify that there is no particular dance form as such. Every therapist, every dance therapist, has their style and form of the movement included to be contemporary. It could fit perfectly mainly because it’s about expression. We are not using it.

So, in a traditional choreography sense, going to see how the body or your movement Therapy is an expression of your own body. So, that’s where the difference is, everyone. So, we are not going to; there is no judgment first of all in any workshop or session. It’s just a safe space to express. It’s more about expressing through your body and your expression than talking. It’s about expressing your body. So, there is a warm-up, then there are certain sequences that I have designed, like the stress relief dance sequence or the Body dance sequence, and there are phases in those.

So there is no particular form of a dance form that there, but yes, sometimes, there is a particular movement sequence which I use, like there are fast movements, for example, There are some vigorous movements to purge out the motions in their other flower movement to calm yourself. So it is the pace, the movement, the speed, and all of that varies, and it can be used, or there are therapists, for there are dance therapists who believe in free expression.


So again, it depends on the what dance the movement therapist you are approaching and how their approach is, and when it comes to, as you said, for women, whether it could be it can be used for pregnant women, or it can be used postnatally, or women have PCOS. Again, as you said, the movements were going to be different.

For example, for someone dealing with PCOS, I would suggest more summer and more movement, which will help them ground themselves in their body and connect with their body more body awareness. As composed to the elderly and elderly in their capacity, I would use more joyful movements to uplift their spirits.

The movements will be more like hey, come on, let’s do this. So this is what I have been doing as well. So I was volunteering and working again with an NGO that has an elderly population. So, there I observe the raw form of expression. Initially, you would think that the Israeli population would prefer slow music. However, I found it in my contract, and they like the music and feel more uplifted. So, it all depends on the age, the vibe of a class or a workshop, the vibe of the entire group, and if it’s an individual, what are their own needs.

So, for example, when dealing with an individual session of someone with a panic disorder and anxiety. So, I am going to focus more again, like I said, on the calming movements connecting with the body, the breath, sometimes many breaths, and body coordination are also used. I will help that person calm down and connect with their body because, in anxiety, anxiety is again like about the future. So what will happen next? So what is this? Then bring them to the present moment and help them be aware of the body.

So again, something called a body awareness sequence will be beneficial. So it all depends on the individual if it’s one person, on that person’s again it depends on the person’s capacity to be comfortable; some people who have observed this difference in individuals also sessions which I have conducted with people. Some people are more open in their first session. They are more connected to their body. So they have to move quickly, and some people have many disconnects.

So, any movements will be at different times; it takes a while for someone who is stressed, and it takes a while for them to calm down and connect with their own body. So, the individual all depends on the individual whether it is. So, as I said, to cater to a particular audience, the classroom has no size fits all.

Personalized DMT For Individual Sessions

Just like in any other form of therapy, it has to be customized according to whether it’s a group session or whether it is like an individual session, and then no particular dance form that which has to be used or has not to be used; there is creative freedom, there is you can use the pop, you can find contemporary you can find whatever the vibe.

Whatever you feel benefits them, you can use that, but there is no specific what I can say there is no specific what you have to use. If it all depends on the dance therapist who is conducting, what is the approach? So, as I said, I usually have a free approach and certain sequences that I have created myself that will benefit this sector. This sequence can be beneficial for something like affirmation dance, promoting somebody to want to achieve something in life, they want to affirm, but they don’t know how to do that; they are formatted with their body.

So, it all depends on the individual and the group aspect. Again, you have to pick up the vibe of the class or the vibe of the individual, and sometimes it’s very spontaneous as well; plan and you go, and then you feel that this flame may not work. So you change your approach. So, it’s all like that. But yes, there is no restriction on age. There is no restriction on dance form, age, gender, and dance form. No restriction.

NourishDoc: Well, thank you so much for being with us. This is a quick intro to how Dance Movement Therapy can be this therapeutic moving into the new year. I know everyone’s probably had a great new year party. I did not have one. I was at home.

I did not want to get Omicron, but on the other hand, using dances of therapy for our mind and body wellness is what we are talking about. We’re bringing this workshop to you this year from Mansi. So, stay tuned and have a happy new year and a great week. Bye bye.

Dance Movement Expert Mansi: Thank you, Amita. Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you for inviting me.


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