This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Dance therapy is based on the premise that the body and mind are interrelated. Dance therapists believe that mental and emotional problems are often held in the body in the form of muscle tension and constrained movement patterns. Conversely, they believe that the state of the body can affect attitude and feelings, both positively and negatively.
Dance movements promote healing in a number of ways. Moving as a group brings people out of isolation, creates powerful social and emotional bonds, and generates the good feelings that come from being with others. Moving rhythmically eases muscular rigidity, diminishes anxiety, and increases energy. Moving spontaneously helps people learn to recognize and trust their impulses, and to act on or contain them as they choose. Moving creatively encourages self-expression and opens up new ways of thinking and doing.
On a purely physical level, dance therapy provides the benefits of exercise: improved health, well-being, coordination, and muscle tone. On an emotional level, it helps people feel more joyful and confident, and allows them to explore such issues as anger, frustration, and loss that may be too difficult to explore verbally. On a mental level, dance therapy seeks to enhance cognitive skills, motivation, and memory.
Dance therapists can also address specific problems in specific ways. For example, to help a patient reduce stress, a dance therapist would first identify how the person's body reacts to stress, then explore specific movement techniques to increase circulation, deepen breathing, and reduce muscle tension.