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The Therapeutic Use of Music in Dance/Movement Therapy to Promote Well-being Outcomes

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) is a creative-arts therapy that uses movement to enhance physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual well-being. This therapeutic approach is beneficial for a wide range of populations, from children on the autism spectrum to older adults with dementia. While DMT is often considered as a group therapy, music plays a crucial role in the therapy process. In this blog, we will explore how music is intentionally used in DMT sessions.

The Therapeutic Use of Music in Dance/Movement Therapy

Schmais (1985) identified several therapeutic factors that elicit change in group DMT sessions, including synchrony, expression, rhythm, vitalization, integration, cohesion, education, and symbolism. Synchrony refers to experiences where participants move in the same rhythmic structure or movement pattern, which can be a unifying and rewarding experience. Moving to rhythmical music with others can also facilitate co-creation, illumination, and a bridge between the internal and external worlds.

Music selection plays a crucial role in supporting the movement process and promoting well-being outcomes. A recent study (Dieterich-Hartwell et al., 2022) revealed that music can be chosen to regulate energy and mood, or to elicit specific responses, such as emotional regulation and heightened engagement. By selecting music with a consistent rhythmic structure and positive tone, participants may experience increased vitality (Schmais, 1985).

Meaning-Making Through Music in Dance/Movement Therapy

Music also provides a pathway for meaning-making in DMT. Songs can evoke memories, present realities, and future aspirations. Koch (2017) explains how movement narratives in DMT can enable participants to re-envision their future and reframe previous challenges. For example, using a familiar song like "

Que Sera Sera" can evoke nostalgia and spontaneous singing or gestures in older adults. The themes from selected songs can also be explored through improvisational movements to foster creativity and empowerment.

In conclusion, music is a crucial component of Dance/Movement Therapy and plays a vital role in promoting well-being outcomes. The collaboration between music and dance is something we at MIYA Creative Care are passionate about and believe can foster growth and healing.


Basso, J. C., Satyal, M. K., & Rugh, R. (2021). Dance on the Brain: Enhancing Intra- and Inter-

Brain Synchrony. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14(7), 1–23.

Dieterich-Hartwell, R., Gilman, A., & Hecker, V. (2022). Music in the practice of

dance/movement therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 80.

Koch, S. C. (2017). Arts and health: Active factors and a theory framework of embodied

aesthetics. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 54, 85–91.

Schmais, C. (1985). Healing processes in group dance therapy. American Journal of Dance

Therapy 1985 8:1, 8(1), 17–36.


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