This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Your dance therapy experience will depend on your ailment, whether you work with a dance therapist in private practice or in the context of a treatment team, and whether you are the only patient or part of a group. And naturally different dance therapists have different styles. You need absolutely no previous dance training to benefit from dance therapy.
Generally speaking, however, for the initial consultation, you will meet with the dance therapist in a dance studio. You should wear comfortable clothing for this and all subsequent sessions. First, the therapist will talk with you about your needs and your reasons for wanting treatment. Next, the therapist may ask you to walk around the studio in order to analyze your body shape, posture, and movements: Is your body erect or caved in? Do you reach out or hold yourself in? Do you move in a fluid or restricted way? Finally, the dance therapist will discuss your treatment goals with you, and the two of you might arrive at an agreement regarding the duration and nature of the therapy. You should review your goals with the therapist periodically to see if you are meeting them.
In your regular sessions, your dance therapist will watch you dance, encourage you to express your feelings through movement, and, at times, imitate your movements (this is called "empathic mirroring") to establish rapport and make you feel accepted. The therapist may also try to help you connect your thoughts, feelings, and memories to your movements.
If you are part of a dance therapy group, the dance therapist will typically assess how the group works together--how you all interact and share emotional expression through movement--and intervene or direct the action accordingly. For example, the therapist might introduce the idea of leading and following to help draw a member of the group out of isolation or self-preoccupation. The dance therapist might also employ equipment such as beanbags, balls, and stretch cloths to explore a theme, such as trust.
The number of sessions, both for individual and group work, will vary. You might have to commit to at least six months of treatment, depending on your ailment. The sessions are usually weekly, although this can vary as well.