Understanding Dance Movement Therapy

Explore Dance Movement Therapy | Unlock Healing Through Dance

Dance is a form of language that words cannot express.

All Living beings have movement embedded in their bodies, even the ones who believe they can’t, can! Often, things that the mind may not be aware of, the body knows. Our bodies are like the maps of our memories and experiences of our lives. One way to travel through these could be connecting with the body through Dance Movement Therapy. Our movements speak louder than words. It helps us communicate the intangible and build more awareness with physical and mental release of the information that has been stored in the body over the years.

What is DMT?

Traditionally, therapy is associated with an image of an individual sitting on the couch and talking for long hours over sessions and sessions. DMT tends to be a different mode of therapy -According to the American Dance Therapy Association (1970), Dance Movement Therapy is defined as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process which furthers the emotional, cognitive and physical integration of the individual.” DMT would have the individual express themselves with the help of their body and sometimes just being with the stillness in no motion as well.

DMT often can be overwhelming as it's usually compared to dancing which entails moving in a particular manner and having a set of skills that clients are apprehensive of exploring. Dancing can or cannot be therapeutic in nature, it is usually more product focussed then process, and doesn’t include the aspect of the intervention. In many different settings, Dance and Movement practitioners and therapists tend to follow different approaches but they all adopt a specific direction based on the needs of the clients.

Dance Movement Therapy, on the other hand, can be useful for individuals of all ages and cultures. It has been found to be particularly helpful to individuals with special needs. MT has many benefits ranging from body awareness, self-expression, self-acceptance, using active imagination, helping relieve stress, and focuses on various other aspects of mental health. Concerns in individuals that have been addressed with DMT are not limited though could be ranging from ADHD, Autism, depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, gender identity, bullying, cancer, and Parkinson’s.

How does DMT work?

One does not have to be a dancer or have any dancing skills to participate or benefit from dance and movement therapy.

A Dance Movement Therapy session is conducted by certified professionals trained and experienced in DMT who facilitate the session unlike dancing where the teacher teaches a form of dance. It may not be solution focussed but is process focussed that leads to interventions.

Dance Movement Therapy sessions usually involve a preliminary assessment which would include the client’s history after which the first step is initiated with a warm-up as a preparatory phase, theme development- core exercise, cool down, and verbal processing of the movement experiences are all part of the session. The initial preparation phase of therapy involves establishing a therapeutic relationship. The sessions could be done individually and/or in a group setting. Music usually enhances the session and creates a relaxed atmosphere by helping tease movement out of the body though it is not a mandate. Movements that come up during the session could be symbolic or gestural which could be a guide to gaining awareness of the body and making movements from real-life experiences. This is often done using movement as a metaphor to express.

Tina,21 years old girl sought therapy for the emotional dysregulation and physical sensations that were often challenging. The therapy session began with a check-in question. Tina was asked to give the colour of how she feels and what that colour means for her today and give a movement to go with that current feeling. After the movement, she was asked where she felt the feeling in her body. As the session progressed there was a shift in her body that occurred with her physical squirming in her chair to having a lot of energy and trying to portray her difficult movements, to becoming aggressive for a moment before retreating to gentle rocking and comforting movements.

Therapy is not for the broken to be fixed and nor is dance movement therapy for only people who can dance. Movement is simply a reflection of our energies that can be expressed through the dance of the body.

The body remembers what the mind Forgets-Martha Manning

Image source-Mpowerminds

Jenisha Shah
Clinical Psychologist and Therapeutic Movement Facilitator
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