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3 Types of Dance Therapy Techniques and Their Benefits

A young woman is using a record player as she dances to the music. She is doing a type of dance therapy that includes improvisation.

Dance/movement therapy (DMT) is the therapeutic use of movement to foster the emotional, social, physical, and mental integration of the individual.

Depending on the population (e.g., children on the autism spectrum, young adults with anxiety, older adults living with dementia) and the setting (e.g., long-term care, community group) the dance/movement therapist aims to meet the client in the “here-and-now” with movement prompts and movement interventions to bring about exploration, expression, new insights about the self, and other well-being outcomes.

Broadly, DMT techniques can be defined as movement experiences or structures which can be utilized in the session for particular outcomes. In this blog post, 3 different types of dance therapy techniques and their benefits will be described. One takes place in pairs, the second takes place in a group, and the third technique is for solo exploration.

3 types of dance/movement therapy

1. Mirrored Movement

Dance/movement therapy rests on the premise that meaningful disclosure and validation can occur on the non-verbal level. A common DMT technique is “mirrored movement” or movement dialogues. In this type of dance therapy, participants work with a partner. One partner is the “mover” and the other is the “mirror”. The “mover” takes a turn to engage with improvisational movement, to portray a particular theme or feeling state to their partner.

Between gestures, the “mirror” kinaesthetically responds by echoing or reflecting back the movements to their partner. The “mirror” partner can either reflect back:

  1. The specific movements of their partner (e.g., a particular way of moving the right arm diagonally across the body).

  2. Their perception of the feeling state of their partner’s movements (e.g., an extended reach with an emotional tone of joy if this is the emotion which they perceived from the mover).

This technique can foster benefits ranging from feeling understood, seen, and connected to another person. It may also be related to empathy enhancement. Additionally, some recent research suggests that moving in synch with another person fosters interpersonal neural synchrony, which is personally and socially rewarding.

A father and his young daughter are dancing together to exemplify a type of dance therapy called mirrored movement

2. Circle Formations

In a DMT group, using a circle formation is a common practice. This is challenging to replicate in a virtual setting, but in a physical space, having participants sit or stand in a circle provides a framework for much movement exploration. For example, during the warm-up portion of the session, participants may take turns leading the group in one movement or gesture to begin to engage the body.

Additionally, creative prompts can be passed around the circle such as making gestures in which an imaginary ball of energy is passed from one person to the next, shifting into different shapes or items.

Circle formations can foster a sense of belonging and togetherness, as well as creativity and play when the group is engaged in a co-creation process.

3. Movement Journeys

Within a group DMT session, there may also be time allotted for more personal movement explorations. The premise of a “movement journey” is to give clients the space to process change or growth they have experienced or hope to experience.

Participants are asked to consider 3 particular places or moments along a journey they find themselves on. Places A, B, and C are then represented with a static gesture or pose. Participants then have time to create and choreograph how they got or will get from place A to B, and B to C. For example, a participant may create a movement journey from despair, to stabilizing, to hope. Or it could creatively represent a more concrete flow of life events, such as a recent move or career change. These movement journeys can be kept personal or shown to other group members.

The benefit of this type of dance therapy is giving participants space to reflect on and move through change in a supportive setting. Aspirations and motivation for the future can also be explored, and one can recognize their efficacy in achieving past achievements.

A man and woman are dancing in the middle of a circle with a group cheering them on. This type of dance therapy uses circulation formations to develop sense of belonging and togetherness

All 3 types of dance therapy techniques can be utilized numerous times with the same participants, and each time will bring about new results or experiences. By engaging with personal themes on a non-verbal level, participants may be surprised by the realizations they have.

To find out more about dance/movement therapy, or begin to explore these ideas in a more formalized setting, our care partnerships programs can bring DMT into your long-term care home, school, and more. If you’re looking for 1-on-1 options, our creative psychotherapy program connects DMT with psychotherapy to provide you with a unique pathway to self-discovery and self-expression.

Which of these techniques would you like to explore?

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

Written by Eden Champagne



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