Dance movement therapy (DMT) (also known as dance/movement therapy, dance-movement therapy and dance movement psychotherapy) is the psychotherapeutic use of movement and/or dance as a medium of connectedness and communication to promote health of individuals, groups and communities. A fundamental principle of DMT is that mind and body are interrelated and thus changes in the one, facilitate changes in the other. There is interconnection and continuity between internal physiological and cognitive processes and external interpersonal meanings, relationships and influences. Emotional and sensory experiences are linked to one another and processed verbally and non-verbally. The aim is to connect physical, cognitive, emotional and social aspects of self and thus foster integration. The relationship between the client and the therapist is key to therapeutic change, as is the relationship amongst group members. During the therapeutic encounter the therapist’s body, through non-verbal communication, acts as a receiver that attunes to the client’s improvised non-verbal and or expressive movement and becomes a medium for expression, whether spoken and unspoken communication, to achieve therapeutic change.  Through acknowledging and supporting the client’s movements the therapist encourages development and integration of new adaptive movement patterns together with the emotional and relational experiences that accompany such changes.

DMT is practiced as both individual and group therapy. Physical contact, especially in group work, is integral to DMT. In group DMT, movement interaction enables clients to become aware of intrapsychic processes, as well as their interpersonal behavior, allowing them to modify how they form and maintain patterns of expression. Group DMT also yields metaphor and imagery through shared movement, which illustrates the unconscious emotional life of the group.  It is practiced in a variety of settings with a variety of clients. 

The use of dance as a healing art has a long history in most human cultures and, as a profession, is influenced by contemporary psychological theories and psychotherapeutic and therapeutic practices, multi-cultural traditions in dance, bodywork and spiritual development.  It is continually informed and updated by national and international research.  The most influential approaches in DMT today derive from the work of Rudolf Laban, Marian Chace and Mary Whitehouse.  Approaches range widely, including:

  • Movement-based DMT approaches influenced by Rudolf Laban
  • Interactive DMT Approach influenced by Marian Chace
  • Psychoanalytically / psychodynamically-informed DMT approaches such as authentic movement influenced by Mary Whitehouse and
  • Other DMT approaches influenced by Bonnie Meekums, focusing on creative expression.