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Dance Therapy: Motion Influences Body Image

Dance has long been fundamental to man's existence as an expression of life itself, and has been used therapeutically for thousands of years.

Although dance therapy is a relatively new profession, it is based on the assumption that the body and mind are in constant reciprocal interaction. Motion influences body image and leads from a change in body image to a change in psychic attitude. Perhaps the most profound catalyst in dance therapy is rhythm. We have all experienced the healing effects of movement, whether it is dancing the electric slide, Bollywood dancing, working out at the gym or even taking an aerobics class. Dance/movement therapy works from the premise that the mind and the body are inseparable, such that a change in one effects a change in the other. Movement therapy is a kind of psychotherapy based on the concept of using the body as a healing force for emotional distress.

The dance/movement therapist intentionally taps into the healing nature of movement by using the art of dance as an observation/assessment tool and then as a means of choreographing responses to issues and movements members bring to a group. The dance/movement therapist responds, echoing and answering each person's movement, thus promoting feelings of self-worth. By utilising the physical elements of breathing, posture, gesture, tension, release, space, force/weight and time, patients gain numerous benefits.

A number of quantitative studies have reported change in psychological variables such as depression, anxiety, body attitude, eroticised affection, self acceptance, integration of movement and anxiety for subjects without psychiatric diagnoses. People can identify and express their innermost emotions, therefore bringing those feelings to the surface. Authentic movement is a self directed process which individuals may discover a movement pathway that offers a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious. Emotions of the body are intricately connected and one directly influences the other.

Health benefits:
Dance therapy isn't only used successfully to help people deal with brain injury, aids, arthritis, amputation, stroke, cancer, and other physical and mental ailments but due to its diversity, it can also help prisoners, actors, athletes, dancers, beauty pageant contestants, as well as normal people to get fit and gain a sense of wholeness.

It helps individuals express themselves verbally and non-verbally and helps them reconnect with the body as an instrument of expression. This therapy works at a neuromuscular level thus alleviating negative emotional and physical side effects for oncology patients and thus improving their quality of life. In dance therapy sessions, clients are encouraged to move authentically, alleviating any stress to move or perform physically. One is encouraged to move according to their comfort levels. From moderate stretches, to deep breathing, the exercises move from head to feet to enliven the body.

DMT for children:

Dance therapy is used as a tool that can help children navigate their bodies in relationship to their surroundings. It has the ability to help children with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, communication disorders, hearing or visually impaired and downs syndrome to name a few. That being said this form of therapy has been proven to be helpful to normal children as well. Infants can also benefit from movement therapy.

What does a session look like?
Every session is different and varies depending on the therapist and participants. It begins with a warm up followed by theme development and finally closure. For instance with senior clients or terminally ill patients the therapist may use chairs as props to encourage movement. With kids, play is an integral part of the sessions. The therapist may use a stretch cloth, toys, bean bags, balls, ribbons or balloons to encourage movement sequences. Music acts as a catalyst but is not compulsory in each session. The therapist engages the client and a process of mirroring and empathic reflection of the client's movements take place. Sometimes, clients are guided through an imagery process to enliven the body from head to toe.

Clients are encouraged to discuss, communicate and share their feelings with each other through a verbalization process at the end of the session. The movement never lies and inevitably the story of the individual unfolds through a cathartic process. Sessions are goal directed and each session is different from the other.

Reference Sources 202
December 16, 2010


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