Dance Therapy

Powerful Essays
Dance Therapy

Dance therapy is a type of psychotherapy that uses movement to further the social, cognitive, emotional, and physical development of the individual. Dance therapists work with people who have many kinds of emotional problems, intellectual deficits, and life-threatening illnesses. They are employed in psychiatric hospitals, day care centers, mental health centers, prisons, special schools, and private practice. They work with people of all ages in both group and individual therapy. Some also engage in research.

Dance therapists try to help people develop communication skills, a positive self-image, and emotional stability.


Dance therapy began as a profession in the 1940s with the work of Marian Chace. A modern dancer, she began teaching dance after ending her career with the Denishawn Dance Company in 1930. In her classes, she noticed that some of her students were more interested in the emotions they expressed while dancing (loneliness, shyness, fear, etc.) than the mechanics of the moves. She began encouraging them by emphasizing more freedom of movement rather than technique.

In time, doctors in the community started sending her patients. They included antisocial children, people with movement problems, and those with psychiatric illnesses. Eventually, Chace became part of the staff of the Red Cross at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. She was the first dance therapist employed in a formal position by the federal government. Chace worked with the emotionally troubled patients at St. Elizabeth's and tried to get them to reach out to others through dance. Some of them were schizophrenics and others were former servicemen suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Success for these patients meant being able to participate with their class in moving to rhythmic music. "This rhythmic action in unison with others results in a feeling of well-being, relaxation, and good fellowship," Chace said once.

Chace eventually studied at the Washington School of Psychiatry and began making treatment decisions about her patients along with other members of the St. Elizabeth's medical team. Her work attracted many followers and the first dance therapy interns began learning and teaching dance therapy at St. Elizabeth's in the 1950s.

Other dancers also began using dance therapy in the 1940s to help people feel more comfortable with thems...

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...d to practice. After two years they may receive an additional recognition when they become an Academy of Dance Therapist Registered. They can then teach dance therapy and can supervise interns.

Dance therapists can also obtain psychological credentials by taking a test and becoming registered by the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc.

Key Terms

Authentic movement

A type of movement that is influenced heavily by Jungian analysis, and works by analyzing the internal images of the patient. Patients are also urged to dance only when they feel the "impulse" to move.

Freudian analysis

A type of psychological treatment where the therapist seeks to help the patient resolve conflicts and traumas buried in the subconscious.

Jungian analysis

A method of psychological treatment where the patient strives to understand the internal, often mythic images in his or her thoughts and dreams.


A medical treatment that seeks to resolve psychological traumas and conflicts, often by discussing them and emotionally reliving difficult events in the past.

Test anxiety

A name for the stress and anxiousness that commonly occur in students before they take exams.
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