How Can Dance Therapy Improve Emotional and Physical Health?

January 26, 2024

Dance therapy, often referred to as Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT), is a therapeutic intervention that combines motion and rhythm to promote the emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual. Rooted in the principle that the body, mind, and spirit are interconnected, this therapy harnesses the power of movement to help individuals express their emotions and improve their overall health. This article will explore the benefits of dance therapy and explain why studies are increasingly showing that it can help with a host of physical and mental health conditions.

The Basics of Dance Therapy

Dance therapy is more than just dancing. It’s a form of psychotherapy that uses movement to help individuals achieve emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration. It’s also an established profession in the healthcare industry, with trained therapists leading the sessions.

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Contrary to popular belief, dance therapy does not require any prior dance experience or skills. It’s about connecting with your body and expressing oneself through movement. The therapist guides individuals or groups through different movement experiences tailored to their specific needs. Music often accompanies these sessions, setting the mood and rhythm for the movements.

In a typical dance therapy session, people may move freely around the room, mirroring the therapist’s movements, or even create their own dance routine. The therapist observes these movements and provides feedback, helping the participants understand their emotions and behaviors better.

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Dance Therapy for Emotional Health

As an expressive therapy, DMT can greatly benefit emotional health. It’s proven effective in managing stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. When people find it difficult to express their feelings in words, DMT offers a non-verbal channel of communication. Through movement, individuals can symbolically express and manage their emotional experiences.

There’s a strong link between our physical movements and emotions. Think about how your body language changes when you’re happy, sad, or angry. Dance therapy leverages this connection to help people communicate their feelings, leading to improved emotional understanding and stability.

Studies have shown that dance therapy can reduce symptoms of depression and improve mood. It does this by releasing endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones, and reducing levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Additionally, the creative aspect of DMT can foster a sense of empowerment and self-confidence, contributing to improved self-esteem.

Dance Therapy for Physical Health

DMT doesn’t just benefit emotional health; it can also have positive effects on physical health. Regular movement helps to increase muscle tone, improve coordination and balance, enhance body awareness, and promote cardiovascular health.

Moreover, dance therapy can also serve as a form of physical rehabilitation. It can help individuals regain control over their bodies after accidents or illnesses. For those living with chronic diseases, DMT can manage pain and improve quality of life.

Research has shown that dance therapy can be particularly beneficial for people living with Parkinson’s disease. The rhythmic movements can help improve balance and gait, and the expressive nature of dance can counter the emotional effects of the disease.

In addition, a study investigating dance therapy for fibromyalgia patients found that it could reduce pain, improve physical function, and enhance patients’ quality of life.

The Role of a Dance Therapist

A dance therapist is a professional who uses dance and movement to promote mental and physical health. They are trained to observe, assess, and intervene in therapeutic ways. The therapist is responsible for creating a safe environment where people can explore their feelings through movement.

The therapist’s role extends beyond leading dance sessions. They also interpret the movements and gestures made by the individuals, providing insights into their emotional and physical state. They use these observations to plan and adjust their therapeutic interventions, ensuring the sessions meet the specific needs of each individual.


In conclusion, dance therapy offers a unique approach to improving emotional and physical health. The therapeutic benefits of movement, coupled with the emotional release that dance can provide, make it a powerful tool for healing and personal growth. As research continues to validate the efficacy of DMT, it’s likely we’ll see its application in healthcare continue to expand.

The Scientific Evidence Supporting Dance Therapy

In recent years, a significant amount of research has been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of dance therapy. A popular method of study is the systematic review which combines results from numerous individual studies to make overall conclusions. These reviews provide a meta-analysis of the effects of dance therapy on various aspects of mental health including depression, anxiety, and quality of life.

One systematic review included studies where patients with Parkinson’s disease participated in dance therapy sessions and then compared them to a control group that did not participate in these sessions. The results showed that those in the dance therapy group had improved motor skills, better balance, and a decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety. This supports the notion that dance therapy can be an effective intervention for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Another review looked at the effects of dance interventions on individuals with depression. The included studies showed that people who participated in dance therapy had lower levels of depression than those in the control group. This further reinforces the potential of dance therapy as a tool for improving mental health.

Through these studies, dance therapy is emerging as a scientifically-supported intervention. Nevertheless, more research is needed to fully understand its impact and to fully integrate it into mainstream healthcare. Despite this, the existing research is promising and supports the work of the Dance Therapy Association, which advocates for the use and recognition of dance therapy in the healthcare sector.

Using Dance Therapy for a Holistic Approach to Health

Dance therapy, with its inherent mind-body connection, offers a holistic approach to health. It addresses not just physical ailments, but also emotional and psychological challenges. Given the power of movement psychotherapy, it’s not surprising that more and more people are exploring dance therapy as a form of treatment.

The power and acceptance of dance therapy as a form of treatment lies in its non-pharmacological nature. It offers a natural, drug-free way to manage and alleviate symptoms of various conditions. From people coping with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, to those dealing with physical health challenges such as Parkinson’s disease, dance therapy is proving to be a potential game-changer.

The holistic approach of dance therapy allows individuals to connect with their bodies in a new way. It empowers them to take control of their health and wellbeing, leading to an improvement in the quality of their life.


In summary, dance therapy is a powerful tool that taps into the innate connection between the mind and the body. It provides a form of expression that transcends verbal communication, allowing individuals to explore and convey their emotions in a safe environment. Current research increasingly backs the effectiveness of dance therapy for improving both physical and mental health. Even though further studies are needed, the promising results so far point to a future where dance therapy is embraced as a mainstream form of treatment. With continued advancements, we can look forward to a time when dance therapy is widely accessible and further integrated into our healthcare system, promoting a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.