For many people, dance is a form of expression and freedom. Dance and movement therapy has been a form of healing in counseling and therapeutic ways for years, but it constantly changing. Dance therapy can benefit one’s life and body in many ways, for patients with different backgrounds, ages, or diagnoses. Dance and movement therapy provides a great outlet for people with physical and mental illnesses and should be able to be available for more people in our country.
Dance therapy is a type of therapy that connects the mind and body together through movement, with movement helping to express feelings and show us our behavior patterns (Goldstein-Levitas par. 1-15). Dance therapy started as early as the 1960’s, with the focus being on emotionally impacting those who need it while using movement. Sadly, jobs were quickly lost due to inpatient psychiatric facilities shutting down. A federal law, starting in 1963, caused publicly-funded treatment centers to shut their doors.
Since most dance therapists helped patients in these facilities, many were without jobs and dance therapy came to a halt for awhile. These centers were continuously shut down until the 2000’s, but the remaining treatment facilities kept hiring dance therapists. Many of these movement therapists also moved onto starting their own private practices, outpatient centers, nursing homes, dance studios, and a few hospitals. Dance therapy is still used today, but is not as widely available as it should be. Many insurance companies do not see it as an accurate or appropriate form of therapy and do not cover it.
Movement therapy is not as widely used as it could be, which makes it difficult for people to find dance therapists in their city (Hopkins par. 1-23). Dance is helpful in many ways to oneself, from neurologically, to socially, and physically. Exercise in general can cause serotonin, the “happy chemicals” of our brain, to produce and release into our brains, lifting our moods. Neurologically, dance therapy has been proven to improve memory and helps cognition due to changes in the neurotransmitters in our brain. With these chemicals creating a happy feeling in our minds, it can cause a more positive outlook on life in general.
In addition, being around people while dancing can help people socially. People were able to feel a sense of freedom to move and express themselves through dance, while being in a room with people in similar circumstances. This can help people become more aware of other’s feelings and allow them to connect and become closer to one another. For people in nursing homes, this can allow them to make friends. For people with depression or anxiety, they can find relief in having someone there who has a similar story or past.
Along with the neurological and social benefits that dance therapy provides, there are physical effects on our bodies, as well. Sensory stimulation, such as dance, helps our mind and body connect together to influence our emotions and impacting our quality of life. Due to this, our immune systems can improve and our memory begins to hold onto information more quickly and efficiently. Dance therapy has rhythm that allows our minds to create and maintain patterns, which can help us move better the more that we practice specific steps (Goldstein-Levitas par. -15).
It is important for every individual to have physical, social, and emotional benefits from some aspect in their lives, and dance can provide this. Dance is not categorized for one type of person. Dance can be influential to a child, an adult, or an elderly person. In the same sense, diseases or mental illnesses do not discriminate, either. Depression or cancer can affect a child, an adult, or an elderly person. Dance has been around for a long time, and it can be used in anyone’s life to provide an outlet, emotionally or physically.
Dance therapy has been used in many studies for different illnesses, mental illness being some in particular. To name a few studies, a psychologist named Daly tested dance therapy on patients with substance abuse to study and improve impulse control self-awareness, two things that people with drug or alcohol addictions struggle with (Barton par. 1-8). Dance therapy has also been tested in elderly patients who suffer from dementia. People who suffer from dementia lose a part of themselves, their memory. With this, they struggle with frustration, depression, anxiety, and a mind-body separation.
Dance therapy provides a way for them to be in the present and be aware of how they are moving and feeling in the moment. Overall, movement and therapy sessions can vary from differing places, but they all allow patients to feel connected in the moment (Goldstein-Levitas par. 1-15). Children also benefit from dance. In general, it allows children to learn rhythm, listening skills, become more sociable, and learn discipline. Dance therapy is even better for children who suffer from learning disabilities or emotional problems.
For children, dance therapy is used to help them relax, cope, increase self-esteem, and figure out how to portray what they are feeling. Many children with disabilities can struggle to relate to others or discuss how they are feeling inside. With dance, they don’t have to say words, they can move to explain how they are feeling (Kourkouta et al par. 1-20). As these sources have shown, dance is beneficial to all age groups and for people of all backgrounds and illnesses. In terms of time, space, and energy, dance therapy differs for where and for whom the therapy is for.
In relation to time, dance therapy can have a fast or slow tempo. If they are talking about something that is sad or may bring up harsh memories, it would be slow music. If they are trying to create a joyful atmosphere, they will put on upbeat music. Space will also differ depending on the situation. In a nursing home, many patients cannot move. They will often be sitting down and will just move their arms, shoulders, head, or feet. With young adults, they may run around the room, use levels to move up high or roll on the ground. Energy can differentiate as well.
In a relaxed state of therapy, the dancers may feel more free and open to their movements. If they are talking about a difficult time in their life, they may have hard-hitting movements to express their anger or frustration. For happy moments, they may make swinging motions to allow them to show that they are not bound by anxiety. Dance therapy is extremely open to interpretation and can change from place to place or even session to session. With all of the variety that dance therapy offers, in terms of who it can help and how it can help, people could expect that dance therapy was extremely popular and easy to be able to sign up for.
Sadly, most insurance companies do not view dance therapy as a true form of counseling. Sessions can become extremely expensive and many people cannot afford this. Since there are a lack of people who can attend dance therapy courses, there are not many places where dance therapy is offered. If someone wants to attend talk therapy, you can easily find numerous centers in the area. For dance therapy, some states do not recognize it as a true therapy, meaning that the entire state could not have a single dance therapist who works there.
Although people could still perform dance therapy if their state does not allow it, they have to jump through many hoops, such as not calling it an actual dance therapy center. This makes it difficult for their center to be found by others and causes problems with having their business. Dance therapy has been beneficial to many people and offers a variety of ways to help many people. If we could study it more, become educated on it, and teach others about it, we can hopefully change the way that people view it.
Everyone deserves to have something that could help them. Dance therapy has influenced many people and could change lives. Patients with dementia and mental illness, along with children, can benefit from dance therapy. Movement with therapy brings a mind-body connection that helps us to interact socially, help us physically, and causes our brains to release chemicals in our brain that allow us to feel good. Dance therapy is a different outlet for people to express their feelings and should be more well-known in our country.