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What are Creative Therapies SERIES


Aiko Leung 


Dance Therapy, also known as Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) is described by the Association
for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK (ADMPUK) as follows

‘Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) recognises body movement as an implicit and expressive instrument of communication and expression. DMP is a relational process in which client/s and therapist engage creatively using body movement and dance to assist integration of emotional, cognitive, physical, social and spiritual aspects of self. The philosophical orientation of DMP is based on the intrinsic belief in the inter-relationship between psyche, soma and spirit as evidenced in the potential held in creative processes.’



The European Association Dance Movement Therapy defines Dance Therapy as follows

‘Dance Movement Therapy (DMT), also known as Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) or Movement Psychotherapy in the UK, offers individuals of all ages and abilities a space to explore what drives them, assisting people to develop self-awareness and sensitivity to others and also to find a pathway to feeling more comfortable in their own skin. DMT can be experienced in a small group setting or through individual therapy sessions, with a qualified and registered therapist.’



In summary, dance therapy is a form of psychotherapy that provides clients with the space to explore their own self, as well as express feelings and thoughts through the medium of dance movements, in obtaining better self-awareness and social skills. Dance therapy is inclusive since all are welcome regardless of age, culture and ability. Therapy could be conducted in a group setting or on an individual basis under the guidance of a registered and qualified dance therapist.



Dance has long been used as a healing ritual by indigenous people (Kiepe et al., 2012). According to ADMPUK, dance therapy started to gain its prominence in the 1960s-1970s in the UK. Rudolph von Laban and Professor Helen Payne contributed immensely to the development of dance therapy. The first-ever UK Postgraduate Dance Movement Therapy Diploma was offered by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) in 1988, developed by Professor Payne at The Hertfordshire College of Art and Design, St Albans (The University of Hertfordshire). In 1987 and 1989, private DMT foundation courses were provided. Nowadays, dance therapy is expanding and becoming more well-known through the increasing studies conducted to ensure an evidence-based approach.



Before starting the therapy, a risk assessment is required to understand the needs and background of the client, so that the most appropriate and tailored therapy could be provided (ADMPUK, 2019). According to EADMT, each dance therapy session is between 50 minutes and an hour. Clients are guided by licensed and registered dance therapists to explore and express feelings and thoughts. Dance therapy emphasises on the inseparableness of the body and mind (Levy, 2005), believing that body postures and movements could assist clients in recalling suppressed memories and events, especially those hard to be expressed verbally (Dijkstra et al., 2007; Gary, 2015). The role of therapists is central, as a well-established therapist-client relationship is essential to achieve successful therapy outcomes. Therapists will professionally guide clients in their exploration, assist clients to understand the meanings of their own behaviors, find meanings and thus creating changes desired by clients. Simple movements and breathing exercises are often incorporated to reach a relaxing state, in which clients could freely and safely discover and express themselves (EADMT, 2013).


Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK. (2013a). History.


Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK. (2013b). What is Dance Movement Psychotherapy?

Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK. (2019). Private Practice Register Hand Book.


Dijkstra, K., Kaschak, M. P. & Zwaan, R. A. (2007). Body posture facilitates retrieval of autobiographical memories. Cognition, 102(1), 139–149.

Gary, A. (2015). Dance / Movement Therapy with Refugee and Survivor Children.

Kiepe, M. S., Stöckigt, B. & Keil, T. (2012). Effects of dance therapy and ballroom dances on physical and mental illnesses: A systematic review. Arts in Psychotherapy, 39(5), 404–411.

Levy, F. (2005). Dance movement therapy: A healing art. The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance

The European Association Dance Movement Therapy. (2013). What is dance movement therapy?

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