Dance/movement therapy is a versatile form of therapy founded on the idea that motion and emotion are interconnected. The creative expression of dance therapy can bolster communication skills and inspire dynamic relationships. It is commonly used to treat physical, psychological, cognitive, and social issues such as:

Physical Issues:

  • Chronic pain
  • Childhood obesity
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular disease

Mental Health Issues:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Disordered eating
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Post-traumatic stress

Cognitive Issues:

  • Dementia
  • Communication issues

Social Issues:

  • Autism
  • Aggression/violence
  • Domestic violence trauma
  • Social interaction
  • Family conflict


Research has demonstrated that dance therapy can be effective in the treatment of mental health issues like disordered eating, depression, and anxiety. Some recent examples include:

  • A study from the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy (2007) found that dance therapy had a positive effect on participants experiencing symptoms of depression.
  • A study from the American Journal of Dance Therapy (2004), in which 54 students participated in a dance therapy violence prevention program, found that aggression among participants decreased and pro-social behaviors increased.
  • A study from Alzheimer’s Care Today (2009) suggests that DMT can directly improve memory recall in people with dementia.
  • A literature review from the American Journal of Dance Therapy indicated that DMT may be a treatment option for children on the autism spectrum.
  • Due to its social and physical components, dance/movement therapy is also being considered as a treatment option for childhood obesity.

Although further research is needed to determine how effective DMT can be in other settings, it continues to show promise as a viable treatment modality for many physical and mental health issues.


Most people understand that dancing can be good for their health; it improves cardiovascular endurance, muscle tone, balance, and coordination. Dance can also boost a person’s mood, improve his or her body image, and provide an opportunity for fun that may lower overall stress and anxiety. While these elements are certainly beneficial, dance/movement therapy takes therapeutic dance to another level.

People in treatment with a qualified dance therapist have the right to confidentiality, and dance therapists provide a safe space for people to express themselves. Movement becomes more than exercise—it becomes a language. People in treatment communicate conscious and unconscious feelings through dance, which allows a therapist to respond in kind. Dance therapists help people work on issues through the use of a “movement vocabulary” that is centered around physical expression instead of words.

Dance/movement therapists assess body language, non-verbal behaviors, and emotional expressions. Treatment interventions are tailored to address the needs of certain populations. Some intervention examples may include:

  • Utilizing “mirroring” (matching/echoing the person’s movements) to illustrate empathy for an individual and validation of his or her experience.
  • Incorporating jumping rhythms into a dance with a group of people experiencing depression because research has shown decreased levels of vertical movement in people with depression.
  • Making use of a “movement metaphor” to help a person physically demonstrate a therapeutic challenge or achievement (e.g. the therapist gives the person in treatment a white flag prop to help him or her celebrate an emotional surrender).