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How Dance Therapy Can Help Relieve Stress as a Caregiver

A caregiver is holding the wrist of a senior. The senior has a yellow ball in is hand. They are both sitting down. This is to exemplify Dance Therapy for Caregivers

As Canada’s population ages, more and more individuals will be living with and/or caring for an individual with a neurodegenerative condition such as dementia. Due to the multifaceted nature of dementia, which impacts one’s mental, social, and relational well-being, family caregivers often become overwhelmed or burdened by their reality. Dementia caregivers often face time constraints, to attend to their own needs, while coping with the changes they see in their loved one. 

However, research indicates that there are factors that can help caregivers maintain resilience and positive outcomes, despite their caregiving stressors.  Some of these resilience factors include self-efficacy, flexibility, experiencing positive emotions, and drawing on social and spiritual support.

Importantly, creative arts therapies such as dance/movement therapy (DMT) provide holistic opportunities to engage in these factors and relieve stress (Champagne, 2023)

Benefits of Dance Therapy for Caregivers

1. Self-efficacy 

DMT supports the innate need to experience one’s effectiveness or ability to carry out tasks. Caregivers may feel distressed at times because they perceive they cannot navigate the stressors of dementia. Yet within dance therapy, they can find opportunities to create and experience positive forms of self-expression. While moving with others and finding ways to express internal themes with corresponding physical movements, participants can bolster their sense of self-efficacy. 

2. Flexibility 

Flexibility has to do with having an openness to create new structures and routines in life. Dementia caregivers who are more willing to accept change and creatively respond to losses exhibit greater well-being over time. Within dance therapy, there are many opportunities to rehearse or explore these types of creative responses. Being able to “reframe” an ongoing stressor as meaningful can be helpful. In movement, participants can create “movement metaphors” - where through gestures and creative movement, they can explore personal themes alongside others. 

A young woman is assisting an older man who looks directly into the camera. She is holding onto his arm and focused. This is to exemplify Dance Therapy for Caregivers

3. Positive Emotions

Cultivating experiences of positive emotions (joy, hope, vitality) is extremely important for individuals at risk for burden or distress. Dance therapy provides opportunities to embody different emotions, engage with upbeat music, and restore a sense of playfulness. Movement experiences such as improvisation and role-play can promote playfulness and positive emotions. Rhythm in music which accompanies the dance therapy session can also help to foster these outcomes. 

4. Social and Spiritual Supports 

When navigating ongoing stressors, having meaningful social and spiritual support to draw on is consistently associated with more favourable caregiver outcomes. Dance therapy groups foster a sense of social connection and bonds. Through moving with others, a sense of collective belonging can arise. Having a sense that one is seen, heard, and belongs can help relieve stress by providing space for processing difficult emotions. Furthermore, dance therapy can provide opportunities to find meaning in one's experience, which may promote spiritual well-being. 

Overall, dance therapy can be a powerful way for caregivers to relieve stress and restore personal resources.

Which of these benefits speaks the most to you?

Let us know in the comments below or book your free consultation with our team to explore group and/or individual DMT options.


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