Mental health is an essential aspect of overall well-being that can often be overlooked in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Fortunately, there are various methods of addressing and improving mental health, including dance therapy.
Dance therapy, also known as movement therapy or dance/movement therapy, is a form of expressive therapy that uses the body’s movement to promote physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
In this blog post, we will explore the numerous ways in which dance therapy can benefit mental health, as well as the different types of dance used in therapy and how to find a dance therapy program.
How dance therapy can benefit mental health
Dance therapy can provide numerous benefits for mental health, including:
1 – Physical exercise and stress relief
Participating in dance can be an effective form of physical exercise, which has been shown to reduce stress and improve overall mental health. The movement and music involved in dance therapy can also serve as a form of distraction, allowing individuals to focus on the present moment and let go of any stress or negative thoughts.
2 – Creative expression and emotional release
Dance therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to express their emotions and feelings through movement. This can be particularly beneficial for those who may struggle with verbal communication or have difficulty expressing their emotions.
3 – Social interaction and sense of community
Dance therapy often involves group sessions, which can provide opportunities for social interaction and a sense of community. This can be especially helpful for individuals who may feel isolated or disconnected from others.
4 – Improved self-esteem and body image
Dance therapy can help individuals develop a positive self-image and increase their self-esteem through the process of learning new dance techniques and performing in front of others.
5 – Improved cognitive functioning
Research has shown that dance therapy can improve cognitive functioning, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. This is because dance requires individuals to use their bodies and minds together to execute complex movements and follow choreography. As a result, dance therapy can be an effective way to engage and stimulate the brain, potentially improving cognitive function in the process.
Dance therapy can be a powerful tool for improving mental health by providing a fun and engaging way to address physical, emotional, and social well-being.
Types of dance used in therapy
There are several types of dance that may be used in dance therapy, including:
- Modern dance: This style of dance that emerged in the early 20th century and is characterized by its use of non-traditional movements and emphasis on personal expression. In dance therapy, modern dance can be used as a way for individuals to explore their emotions and express themselves creatively.
- Ballet: Ballet is a classical dance form that originated in the courts of Italy and France and is known for its grace, elegance, and technical precision. In dance therapy, ballet can be used to improve posture, balance, and coordination, as well as to foster discipline and self-control.
- Hip hop: This is a style of dance that originated in the African American and Latino communities of New York City and is characterized by its energetic, rhythmic movements. In dance therapy, hip hop can be used to improve cardiovascular health and increase energy levels, as well as to provide a sense of fun and self-expression.
- Folk dance: Folklore or folk dance refers to traditional dances that are specific to a particular culture or region. In dance therapy, folk dance can be used to explore and celebrate cultural identity, as well as to provide a sense of community and connection.
- Other cultural dance forms: There are countless other cultural dance forms that may be used in dance therapy, such as salsa, tango, and bhangra, to name a few. Using a variety of cultural dance forms can provide a diverse and enriching experience for individuals in dance therapy.
Case studies/examples of dance therapy in action
Here are some examples of the best uses for dance therapy :
- Children with autism: Dance therapy has been shown to be effective in improving socialization, communication, and self-regulation in children with autism. For example, a study published in the Journal of Dance Education found that dance therapy was associated with significant improvements in social interaction and communication in children with autism.
- Adults with depression: Dance therapy has been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression in adults. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that dance therapy was associated with significant reductions in depression and anxiety in adults with major depressive disorder.
- Elderly with dementia: Dance therapy has been found to be beneficial for improving cognitive function and quality of life in elderly individuals with dementia. A study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found that dance therapy was associated with significant improvements in cognitive function, mood, and quality of life in elderly individuals with dementia.
Note that these are just a few examples, dance therapy may be beneficial for a wide range of mental health concerns and populations not being only limited to the examples provided above.
How to find a dance therapy program
Here are some steps for finding a dance therapy program:
- Research local studios and therapists: One of the best ways to find a dance therapy program is to search for local dance studios or therapists who offer dance therapy services. This can be done through a simple online search or by asking for recommendations from healthcare professionals or others who may be familiar with dance therapy programs in your area.
- Consult with a healthcare professional: If you are seeking dance therapy as a form of treatment for a specific mental health concern, it is a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a therapist or counselor. They may be able to provide recommendations for specific dance therapy programs or refer you to a dance therapist.
- Consider your needs and preferences: When choosing a dance therapy program, it’s important to consider your own needs and preferences. This may include factors such as the type of dance used in the program, the format (e.g. individual vs. group sessions), and the location of the program.
- Check the credentials of the therapist: It is important to make sure that the dance therapist leading the program is qualified and has the appropriate credentials. In the United States, dance therapists must be licensed or certified by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA). You can check the credentials of a dance therapist by contacting the ADTA or by asking the therapist for their credentials.
By following these steps, you can find a dance therapy program that meets your needs and helps you to improve your mental health.
Dance therapy is a powerful tool for improving mental health. Through physical exercise, creative expression, social interaction, and more, dance therapy can provide numerous benefits for physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Whether you are seeking relief from stress, a creative outlet, or a sense of community, dance therapy may be an excellent form of self-care and treatment.
If you are interested in trying dance therapy, be sure to research local studios and therapists, consult with a healthcare professional, and consider your needs and preferences to find the right program for you.