Dance and movement therapy and the body

Dance and Movement Therapy (DMT) uses the body movement as a non-verbal instrument of communication and expression. This process is based on the relationship between the client and the therapist engaging creatively by using body movement and dance, in order to assist emotional, cognitive, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of the self. The philosophical orientation of DMT is the belief in non-duality, hence “the inter-relation between psyche, soma and the spirit” (ADMT, 2013). The body is a container of everything that enters the mind; it responds to emotions, feelings, and somatic stimulus such as touch, injury or illness. It is a medium reflecting the state of mind and spirit; a lived experience of a human being.

There has been increasingly visible evidence based research on benefits of using Dance Movement Therapy, although many people resist trying this form of treatment, usually due to the general assumption that DMT requires dance skills. It actually doesn’t, and it is not about putting on a movement like a dress or coat. Everyone moves and everyone has a body. It may suffer if exposed to a range of psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, body image issues, eating disorders or trauma. Stress-related conditions, such as medically unexplained symptoms, can be treated by using an intervention that targets conditions related to the body.

The therapist ensures that there is a holding and safe environment to explore somatic disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, non-ulcer dyspepsia, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (Payne, 2009), in order to find new strategies for coping, or reframing the concept of pain (Shim et al., 2017). Moreover, a physical component of DMT offers improvement of physical strength, coordination, mobility, and decreased muscular tension, at the same time supporting cognitive functions, preventing dementia and memory loss. “Dance has been found to be therapeutic for patients with Parkinson’s disease (Edwards, 2017)”. Because DMT frequently offers group interventions, it has been seen to be positive in improving social skills, relationships with the self and others, confidentiality, self-acceptance and self-awareness.

The body is like a shell that protects from danger. Over years of experience, an individual builds their armour, like a shield that protects the self from anything that distorts the sense of safety, freedom, or control. As a result, the energy that is bound by muscular contraction does not flow through the body (Reich, 1936), building the body armour. During the DMT therapy, the individual learns how to release the armour, gradually feeling more relaxed and at ease, hence more open for sharing.

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