The effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy

My previous blog entry introduced Creative Arts Therapies, in particular, Dance Movement Therapy and explained how expressive movements could improve clients’ psychological issues and well-being.

But how effective is Dance Movement Therapy?

I have recently researched into the effectiveness of DMT and findings suggest that it could be very beneficial for many types of people with varying illnesses- ranging from adolescents with mild depression (Jeong et al, 2005) to improving the quality of life for women recovering from cancer (Sandel et al, 2005). Erwin-Grabner et al (1999) researched the effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy on reducing test anxiety. Twenty-one university students volunteered to take part in the study and were asked to complete a Test Attitude Inventory (TAI) prior to the study (measure of test anxiety). Participants assigned to the experimental group took part in four 35 minute dance/movement sessions over a two week period which was structured around exam-like situations. After the movement sessions the control group and the experimental group were asked to re-take the TAI in order for the researchers to compare the results. The findings showed that the experimental group of participants demonstrated a significantly greater reduction in TAI score in comparison to the control group suggesting that Dance Movement Therapy may be an effective method of reducing test anxiety levels.

Furthermore, a study carried out by Lundy and McGuffin (2005) investigated the effectiveness of DMT alongside therapeutic holding. Although quite ineffective, therapeutic holding is frequently used as a way of controlling aggressive behaviour in children, despite that it carries physical and emotional risks. Research was therefore carried out by Lundy and McGuffin in order to find out whether a Creative Arts Therapy like Dance Movement Therapy could be used alongside therapeutic holding as a way of reducing the associated risks.  In order to carry out this research, the staff of a residential treatment centre volunteered to participate in a DMT training workshop which integrated the movement techniques with therapeutic holding. Children also participated in the study through self-report.  Lundy and McGuffin’s 2005 study found that using Dance Movement Therapy alongside therapeutic holding reduced the threat of trauma to adults, however, they insist further research into this integration of therapies would prove beneficial in order to make therapeutic holding safer for children too.

There are many research findings which suggest that Dance Movement Therapy is an effective therapy, however, whether or not it is more effective than physiological treatments is debatable. Perhaps, such as in the study of Lundy and McGuffin (2005), DMT works more efficiently alongside other treatments.


Erwin-Grabner, T., Goodill, S. W., Hill, E. S., Neida, K. V. (1999). Effectiveness of Dance/Movement Therapy on Reducing Test Anxiety. Retrieved from:

Lundy, H., & McGuffin, P. (2005) Using Dance/Movement Therapy to Augment the Effectiveness of Therapeutic Holding with Children. Journal of child and adolescent psychiatric nursing, 3, 135-145. DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6171.2005.00023.x



About Nathalie Lauren Joyce

19. First year @ Bangor University. Psychology Blogger.

4 responses to “The effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy

  1. Generally I do not read post on blogs, however I
    would like to say that this write-up very
    pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me.
    Thanks, very great article.

  2. PsychThoughts

    I agree with you in that dance movement therapy is backed by some research which suggests it is able to help with many aspects of well-being. Heber (1993) conducted a study which showed how dance movement therapy was integrated to nursing interventions which created higher levels of improvement.
    I believe that dance movement therapy is most effective with illnesses which effect the mind. For example, depression and eating disorders which are all mediated by the mind’s rationale (Young-ja et al., 2005 & Krantz, 1999). For this reason, i’d believe that DMT is more useful than drug treatment with such disorders however, they are not as effective when it comes to actual physical disorders such as Cancer. Cohen & Walo (2001) show that dance therapy only helps with coping with an illness instead of actually getting rid of the illness. For this reason i believe dance movement therapy is most useful when helping with coping strategies and alleviating mind mediated stress.

    Cohen, S.O. & Walo, G.A. (2001). Dance/ movement therapy for children and adolescents with cancer. Cancer practice, 7(1), 34-42. doi:10.1046/j.1523-5394.1999.07105.x

    Krantz, A. M. (1999) Growing into her body: Dance/ movement therapy for women with eating disorders. American Journal of dance therapy. 21(2), 81-103. doi: 10.1023/A:1022104603189

    Young-Ja, J. & Sung-Chan, H. & Myeong,S.L. & Min-Cheol, P. & Yong-Kyu, K. & Chae-Moon, S. (2005). Dance movement therapy improves emotional responses and modulates neurohormones in adolescents with mild depression. International Journal of neuroscience, 115(12), 1711-1720. doi:10.1080/00207450590958574

  3. Studies such as that by Blumenthal et al (1990) suggest that aerobic exercise (this would include Dance Therapy) reduces response to mental stress (this would include test anxiety) and would therefore seem to support the findings that you discuss here. However, an area for possible concern could present itself when we consider what was actually measured in the control group and if they took part in any physical activity at all? If not, the findings in favour of Dance Therapy could be considered less reliable as the positive effects shown by the experiment group could just as easily be displayed with any form of aerobic exercise. An obvious way to resolve this issue would of course be to test the effectiveness of Dance Therapy’s ability to reduce stress against other previously demonstrated aerobic exercise and would also negate any ethical issues for cost implications, access to treatment and qualified Dance Therapists when recommending such treatment.


    Blumenthal, J. A., Fredrikson M., Kuhn, C. M., Ulmer, R. L., Walsh-Riddle, M. & Applebaum, M. (1990). Aerobic exercise reduces levels of cardiovascular and sympathoadrenal responses to mental stress in subjects without prior evidence of myocardial ischemia. American Journal of Cardiology, 65 (1), 93-98. doi: 10.1016/0002-9149(90)90032-V

  4. to me this makes perfect sense that dance would aid people in anxiety levels, for one dancing would boost a persons confidence and the exercise itself cant be a bad thing for a person. I couldn’t actually find the studies you mentioned but i did come across a similar study that came to similar conclusions that dance does benefit mental health.

    I think dance would be a good way of aiding violent behaviour as a person can express there feeling in a performing manner 🙂

    really good past very interesting

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: