Art Therapy Studio Chicago, Ltd.
What is Dance Movement Therapy?
Author- Joan Erenberg, LCPC, BC-DMT, RYT
The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) defines dance/movement therapy as the “psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual”. This is based on the “empirically supported premise that the body, mind and spirit are interconnected.” Dance/movement therapy falls under the category of the creative art therapies and is conducive to both individuals and groups across a wide array of psychotherapeutic needs. The practice of dance/movement therapy aligns with the the mission of Art Therapy Studio Chicago (ATSC), “to connect through creativity’ and to “facilitate healing, insight and awareness.”
A question that I’m often asked about dance/movement therapy is "why can’t I just dance in my living room, or at a nightclub, or in a dance class, or at the gym? Why should I seek out a clinical psychotherapist whose specialty is dance/movement therapy?"
As with any other creative arts therapy, dance/movement therapy can provide a springboard for self-expression, emotional release, increased insight, and interpersonal connection when words get stuck, or are over-edited by the inner-critic. Body- centered therapies are a particularly effective resource for stress management, based on the premise that stress, anxiety and challenging emotions are stored in the body and need somatic release. Dance/movement therapy can provide a safe container to address body-image issues or to find more comfort in one’s one skin. Many people who experience dance/movement therapy for the first time report an increased awareness of body sensation which can help to illuminate deeper, subconscious material. As in other psychotherapeutic modalities, the therapeutic relationship can provide the foundation upon which healing can occur.
Dance/movement therapy resonates and can be integrated with almost any psychotherapeutic approach, from traditional talk therapies to other expressive art therapies. Body-based trauma therapies such as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing have informed the treatment of trauma, based on the premise that trauma has an overwhelming impact on the nervous system and needs to be addressed somatically before emotional processing is possible.
Cutting edge research over the past decade provides evidence that movement and body-centered therapies can re-pattern neural pathways and promote neuro-plasticity, providing greater potential for growth, healing and overall wellness. Mindfulness can be cultivated through dance/movement therapy and is key in promoting neural integration.
Dance/movement therapy can provide a fertile ground for group therapy, with a wide array of populations, including individuals dealing with depression and anxiety, eating disorders, gender identify issues and chronic mental illness. People with dementia and other cognitive disorders can also benefit from the opportunities for non-verbal communication and creative self- expression. Dance/movement therapy groups can also facilitate interpersonal connection for people of differing cultural backgrounds and provide opportunities to learn how dance and movement is utilized across cultures to support the healing process.
ATSC will be providing dance/movement therapy based groups in the near future, so make sure to stay tuned.
As exemplified above, there are so many answers to the question, what is dance/movement therapy? Hopefully some questions have been answered and curiosity peeked. I would also like to briefly share my own story of how I discovered dance/movement therapy, and how it has impacted my life journey. As an adolescent, my family moved from a diverse urban Chicago neighborhood to a homogenous suburb, in the middle of my sophomore year. This uprooting triggered a long period of depression, but I was fortunate to have parents who believed in psychotherapy which in turn, led to my work with a dance/movement therapist. Through this work, I was able to find a voice to express and release challenging emotions, tap into my creativity as a source of healing, find new and enriching relationships, as well as repair the ones that were suffering. I was also able to form a new, healthier relationship with my body, which had become a source of distress and low self-esteem. Many years later, in my practice as a dance/movement therapist, I have witnessed both profound growth and change in clients, as well as an increased sense of well-being and enhanced creativity.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself when pondering whether you would like to explore the possibility of working with a dance/movement therapist.
Do I feel comfortable with and in my body?
Does my body image create a barrier/obstacle to my psychological and emotional well-being?
Am I able to resource my body when experiencing stress and anxiety?
Do I suffer from stress-related somatic discomfort and pain?
Do I want to find new more effective ways to express and regulate my emotions?
Does my body feel numb and detached, or more like a burden than a source of well-being?
Do I want to find more balance in my life. Do I feel a connection between my mind, body and spirit?
Do I want to find new ways to tap into and cultivate my creativity and find my voice through expressive movement?
Do I feel seen and heard by others. Do I want to feel more connected to others?
Do I want to investigate ways of unlocking trauma, both the experience of life threatening trauma and/or emotional trauma experienced while moving through the developmental stages of life?
For more information visit www.adta.org American Dance Therapy Association ADTA website to learn more about dance/movement therapy.
Dr. Mary Andrus DAT, ATR-BC, LCPC