Aspects Of Dance/Movement Therapy And Its Benefits

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated August 2, 2022

Life itself is like a dance. Some people have a natural talent for dancing while others stumble and fall. However, regardless of how you're dealing with life, one thing you can benefit from is dance therapy. 

What is Dance Therapy?

Experiencing Mental Health-Related Challenges?

Dance therapy, also known as dance/movement therapy or DMT, is a therapy that uses, well, dance. Besides getting people off their feet and helping people be more physical, which can help mental health problems, dance therapy is used for mental health problems. The goal is to help reduce stress, improve cognition, and make yourself physically more active. Dance therapy is seen as quite effective, and let's look at a few reasons as to why that is.

What Can It Treat?

Dance therapy is popular because it can help treat quite a few problems. The belief is that dance therapy can help treat your emotion with motion. Dance is said to help you with social, physical, cognitive, and any other problems you have in your life. Let's look at a few of them.


  • Pain. If one has chronic pain, exercise can help by releasing natural painkillers in one's brain.
  • Obesity. If someone is going to move more, they can lose weight.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Exercise can help improve your heart health.
  • Hypertension. Exercise helps reduce blood pressure.
  • Cancer. Movement can keep you physically fit and keeps your spirits up.


  • Exercise can help with your anxiety and depression. Besides the feel-good chemicals released in your brain, it provides a good distraction.
  • Self-esteem issues. Those who have problems with their confidence may be able to benefit from dancing.
  • Being able to get into a hobby can help people cope with their trauma.
  • Exercise can help give the older crowd a hobby, and exercise may help improve memory.
  • Communication problems. Whether you're awkward or have a legitimate speaking problem, dance therapy can help.
  • Dance therapy is said to help people with autism.
  • If one has anger issues, dance therapy can help them get their energy out.
  • Dance therapy is good to build up one's social circle as well. You can dance with other like-minded people.

History Of Dance Therapy

The dance itself has been around since humans learned how to walk on two feet. The healing power of dance was quite noticeable, and, obviously, dance had a supernatural aspect to it for many tribes. While dance certainly isn't magic, it has some scientific proof that it can be a tool for healing. Many early psychologists began seeing its power, and, in the 1950s, early dance therapy was born.

Dance Therapy's Effectiveness

You may wonder how effective dance therapy is. Is it placebo or is there scientific support for it? As you can imagine, dance therapy is quite effective and a great way to treat your mental health problems. There have been studies that have seem to indicate that those who tried it ended up having a positive experience. Other studies have seemed to point to the fact that dance therapy can make people less aggressive. For those who have had dementia, dance therapy can help with memory. It can help children with autism deal with the problems that come with autism. Childhood obesity seems to decrease with dance therapy.

It's still a field that does require more research, but, so far, the evidence has pointed out that it is effective in both physical or mental problems.

The Principles And Aspects Of It, And What To Expect

If you go to a dance therapy session, you may wonder what to expect. Dance therapy usually begins with an observation and assessment. They make sure you're fit to dance, you can tell them your problems, and you can get an idea of what to expect with your session.

When it comes to dancing therapy, the session will depend on who you're seeing. Some sessions have a structure. It may begin with a warmup, a cooldown, breaks, certain dances, and other things that make it a unique experience. However, dance therapy can also be something that has no structure. The dancers control their dances, and the instructors just watch. Despite this, many instructors will adhere to a few different principles, and these include:

The Mission

The mission of the dance instructors is to help treat, prevent, and diagnose the problems that can hinder one's functions. They want to have developed skills for a lifetime and create interventions if needed. The mission is to never give up on the client. If there needs to be adjustments to the treatment plan, they will be made, and the session can continue.

Experiencing Mental Health-Related Challenges?

The Principles 

There are many principles of dance therapy. It's believed that body movement can show different traits of the personality that are usually not visible. It's believed that the body and mind are a whole and not two separate parts. In other words, if someone is having a problem in the body, the mind may be affected, and vice versa.

It's believed that there is a therapeutic relationship that can be expressed nonverbally. People don't just have to have a talk therapy session. Movements themselves can be made unconsciously and can symbolize what the client is feeling at the time. It's also believed that experimenting with how you move can make you discover new aspects about yourself that you never thought were possible.

There is also an aspect of dance therapy that is quite different from normal dancing. Normal dancing can be beneficial as well, for all the reasons that dance therapy can. It can improve your overall physical health and improve your mood and mental health. With that said, dance therapy takes these concepts and puts them on the next level.


First, dance therapy is entirely confidential, just like normal therapy. Dance therapy is, therefore, the safest place for someone to respect themselves. It's believed that dance is more than just an art form; it can be a language that allows people to express themselves in ways that are typically outside of the conscious mind. Many unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motivation can be expressed through dance therapy. Dance therapy can turn people into making their vocabulary and their glossary of themselves.

Interventions In Dance Therapy

Another aspect of dance therapy is its interventions. In dance therapy, interventions are used to be able to look at the client's needs. What are interventions, you may ask? There are many types of interventions that are used, and these include:


This is when the instructor tries to mirror the movements of the client. This helps establish empathy and helps the client feel like the therapist understands them.


Dance therapy may have jumping involved with dancing. This is because depressed people don't have much vertical movement, and it's believed jumping more may be able to treat depression.

Movement Metaphor

This is when someone gets a reward to help them complete a challenge. For example, the therapist may reward you with a metaphorical reward to keep you going.

Do I Need To Dance Well?

One thing that is intimidating for quite a few people who go through dance therapy is that they believe that someone must need to be immensely talented to enjoy dance therapy. This is simply not the case. Anyone can benefit from dance therapy. It doesn't matter if you have two left feet. Dance therapy is freeform, and the therapists do not judge you. Instead, it's a safe place for you to express yourself. If you have any doubts, you can put them to rest.

Dance Therapy Is For Everyone

You don't need to have severe mental problems to benefit from dance therapy. Anyone can benefit. Even if you feel like nothing is wrong with your life, dance therapy is good exercise, a great way to improve your overall health, and a great way to express yourself. Think about an aspect of your life that you want to improve on. Odds are, dance therapy can help you improve upon it and then some. Talk to a therapist and see if dance therapy is right for you. There's a good chance it will be.

Seek Help!

If you are having a physical or mental problem, there is no shame whatsoever in speaking to a therapist. It doesn't matter if you need a dance therapist or another talk therapist. Someone who is qualified can help you and come up with a plan that can benefit you.

Counseling can not only help those who are having problems with their mental state, but also problems outside of them. For example, someone who is having work problems may benefit from counseling. By seeking help, you are proving that you want to treat your problems, regardless of what they may be.

To start considering your options, try connecting with a counselor on BetterHelp.

You wouldn’t be alone in being intrigued by online therapy. A recent New York Times article highlighted how convenient many therapists and clients have found it to be during the pandemic. We have known for some time that remote therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, and is likely to increase the number of people who are able to receive care. Now, more than ever, therapists are getting a handle on how to use technology effectively.

The New York Times article also highlighted some of the benefits of online therapy. For those who are in remote or rural areas, online therapy is likely a much more convenient way of partaking in therapy – which means that some folks who might have ignored their mental health needs before will now try therapy. Even if you don’t live in a rural area, online therapy gives you a range of options when it comes to counselors and takes away a commute. 

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Commonly Asked Questions

What is dance therapy used for?
Can dancing be a form of therapy?
Can dancing heal trauma?
What is dance therapy vs movement therapy?
Why is dance so healing?
Is dancing good for PTSD?
Is dance a somatic therapy?
How does dancing relate to psychology?
What type of therapy is dance therapy?
Is dance therapy evidence based?

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