Art and Dance Movement Therapy: Personal Experience


Nowadays, the developed theoretical base and high technology allow scientists to study the human body and brain thoroughly. However, doctors and therapists are still looking for the origins and universal methods to treat many severe physical and mental illnesses and disorders such as depression. One such approach to possible healing and recovery is art therapy. According to Cherry (2019), “art therapy is a therapeutic technique rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being” (para. 1). This technique includes many artistic disciplines and activities, from reading to dancing. This paper will cover such concepts as art and dance therapy as well as personal experience in applying dance as a therapeutic practice.

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Art Therapy as a School of Treatment

Art therapy primarily combines the psychotherapeutic principles and methods of interpretation and the practical component of art activity. According to Cherry (2019), “…art therapy is an approach to mental health that utilizes the process of creating art to improve mental, physical, and emotional wellness” (para. 4). The most developed fields of this therapeutic practice are music, visual images, reading, acting, and dancing. Art therapy is used in the treatment and prophylaxis of most relevant diseases such as cancer, anxiety disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. One of the features of art therapy can be considered the combined nature of diagnosis and practice. Just as the visual images are shown in the drawing inform the specialist about the mental state of the patient during the treatment, so the movements in the dance can determine the physiological ailments. Art therapy is applicable to all age groups and does not require the patient to have special skills or knowledge in a particular area of art. In addition to the general healing process, this type of psychotherapeutic treatment includes stimulating the general mental state of patients and improving their communicative abilities.

Art Therapy throughout the History of Humankind

Since the most ancient times, people consciously and unconsciously expressed in a work of art not only their thoughts and images but also their experiences and illnesses. However, as a recognized field of psychiatry and medicine, it “didn’t start to become a formal program until the 1940s.” (Cherry, 2019, para. 8). British specialists were the first scientists, who used and developed the definition of “art therapy”. This treatment was later cultivated mainly by American and Western European psychotherapists and other related science specialists.

Dance Movement Therapy as Branch of Psychotherapy

Dance movement therapy (DMT) is a series of general and specialized physical dance exercises for the general improvement of the health of people with various mental disorders and physical illnesses. Dancing as a phenomenon of art in one form or another is present in all cultures, which makes this discipline extremely useful and universal. According to Karkou, Aithal, Zubala, and Meekums (2019), “thus, DMT may offer a way to work through issues that are difficult to articulate or are buried in the unconscious…” (p. 4). The nature of the movements, the behavior in the dance, and the isolation of the patient say the therapist not only about the aspects of the already diagnosed disease but also about the accompanying ailments. DMT is mainly used in cases of depression, obesity, heart disease, chronic back and neck pain, and socialization problems. DMT is especially useful in treating depression due to the collective nature of procedures and the activation of all parts of the brain and the production of substances responsible for joy during the dance (Karkou et al., 2019, p. 4). Like any other structured physical exercise, DMT also helps to improve self-esteem, body tone, and skin and muscle tissue.

Fundamental Techniques of Dance Movement Therapy

As in any other form of art therapy, specialists have identified and developed the most effective approaches to treating patients. The primary rules of any TMD include the importance of recognizing that each participant in the therapy process has a safe space and the uniqueness of the movements of each of them. Understanding and working with these aspects improve the mental and physical condition of the patient. It is also essential to build a trusting relationship with the participants of therapy, which in TMD is called “mirroring” (Karkou et al., 2019, p. 4). Another fundamental practice is group exercises using music; rhythmic jumping upwards is especially useful. Cheering and support from the therapist after each series of exercises allows patients to feel not only the results of the actions taken but also the general feeling of a certain victory. Yet depending on the professional background of the specialist and the physiological conditions of the patient, the list of permissible and permitted exercises may vary.

The Unifying Nature of Dance Movement Therapy

The uniqueness of DMT lies in the fact that it combines several healing practices. In the process of DMT procedures, music is always used, which is also part of art therapy, which contributes to an additional therapeutic effect. A large number of different dance genres allows the specialist to choose different styles of music, which helps to create a comfortable situation for patients of different ages and views. Physical exercises from the field of health-improving physical education serve to overcome not only physical illnesses but also social and cultural isolation and barriers (Karkou et al., 2019, p. 4). Interaction during the dance between various representatives of different social groups unites society, creates a generally positive mood, and makes it possible to learn about current problems. These favorable properties distinguish DMT from other disciplines of art therapy.

Personal Experience in Dance Movement Therapy

In my life, DMT helps me deal with the symptoms of a depressed mood. At the beginning of classes, exercises help me distract from negative thoughts, and in the end, I think only about good things. Also, collective and paired activities allow me to fight social phobia. Also, dance practice makes it possible to express my inner emotions and feelings without words. I find DMT a beneficial procedure because it allows me to concentrate on the positive aspects of my life.

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The purpose of this work was to discuss the phenomenon of art therapy in general and DMT in particular. It can be argued that art therapy has existed since the advent of human culture, but it received its place in the framework of psychotherapy in the middle of the last century. This concept means the application by psychotherapists of art practices and works of art as a way to treat various diseases. One of them, DMT, uses dancing and movement as a treatment but also combines several neighboring practices. Based on personal experience with DMT and the knowledge gained from the article, this is what makes this approach of art therapy, the most effective treatment for diseases and disorders of various kinds.


Cherry, K. (2019). How art therapy is used to help people heal. Web.

Karkou, V., Aithal, S., Zubala, A., & Meekums, B. (2019). Effectiveness of dance movement therapy in the treatment of adults with depression: A systematic review with meta-analyses. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. 1-23. Web.

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