All posts by aarohidoshi


July 1, 2014

This is a good enough place to begin. From inside your own skin.

Before we could speak, we moved. We reached out to the world, we curled our fingers around safety, we grasped at colour, we turned away from fear and closed our eyes in the dark. We danced in excitement, ran towards horizons, and spun through raindrops. We grew taller, and hunched over in anxiety, flirted with pleasure and unlocked our palms and thighs to embrace more of the world around us.

Before words trained our tongues to move, we said everything we needed to through our bodies. Our bodies murmur things, but we’re too used to only listening for words.

Words are decided, predictable, more controlled. Movement is raw. Movement is honesty. When dance becomes a listening surrender to the rhythms of your own mind and body, then movement is truth. And to stumble on the truth, in a world designed to look the other way, is the smallest but most life- altering miracle one can hope for.

My first Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) workshop with Sohini Chakroborty of Kolkata Sanvedwas the place where I began to understand that movement in itself was a mysterious and fascinating language. As a first year counseling student and a lover of dance, I’d showed up not knowing what to expect from three days of dance movement therapy. I vaguely assumed that it would be a bunch of fun movement exercises we could use as buffers between more ‘serious’ (i.e verbal) therapy sessions. But there was so much more. As a writer, I was left reeling, and wordless – once I allowed myself to enter my own physical landscape, and move through it. Those three days helped me realize how disconnected the body is from the mind, and how traditional talk therapies often neglect the relationship between mind and body. Returning to work with somatic awareness can be a deeply powerful experience, because we begin to express emotions without the intrusion of words.  Sometimes we can say through our movements what we cannot say with our voices.

So how do we begin these conversations?

Tripura Kashyap’s – one of India’s first trained dance movement therapists and founder of the Creative Movement Therapy Association of India – answer to this question involves building movement vocabulary, expression, catharsis and integration. The journey through these processes itself is a radical one to embark on – because it includes not just the mind, but the body, not just words but also gestures – and it embraces the unpredictable and instinctive, while also exploring what is instinctive and what is inherited.

As women, we’re trained to move through the world in certain ways. ‘Feminine’ ways – unassuming, diffident, and definitely not attention seeking. Our culture requires our movements to be hushed, modest, and discreet, and our expressions to match. Arms, legs, and ankles, folded into each other. Your chest, pulled inwards, a little bit. In a woman, confidence, exuberance and sensuality are distracting, and invite unapologetic attention, suspicion and aggression.

Dance movement therapists engage with the unlearning of this (and many other forms of) deep-rooted physical conditioning, by encouraging clients to explore different forms, rhythms, ways and movement. Going beyond masculine and feminine ways of inhabiting your body, therapists encourage clients to move as they feel like moving, to come from not conditioning, but emotion. A woman can spread her legs wide, a man can twirl delicately – and it does not matter if your movements ‘match’ your gender. The focus is not on looking beautiful or graceful – and there is no ‘correction’ of steps by the therapist, but an attentive acceptance of the ways one moves, and an expansive exploration of the multitudes of movements and rhythms possible. This builds a repertoire of movement vocabulary that goes beyond what our bodies are used to. Expression emerges from the exploration of the same. Sessions are often divided between sequences of free movement, or improvisations and pockets of reflection on the same movements, and the memories evoked. ‘This is how I felt when we did that exercise where we pretended to walk on broken glass. This is what I remembered when we used our wrists to dance.’

Our bodies are the places we have lived in all our lives. Every single memory we possess has had a physical ripple effect. The time your knees shook when your teacher yelled at you. The uneasy feeling that stayed in your stomach all summer, before your entrance results came out. The violent stab of anger felt when someone touches us against our will. There are sensations we have experienced, which we are sometimes hard-pressed to verbalise. By working with the body, we enter the nameless territory of sensation, and instead of words, we work with felt sensations that emerge during exercises. For example, survivors of sexual trauma often develop PTSD symptoms of disassociation, and do not feel ‘grounded’ within their own bodies.  Having experienced such a deep violation of their body and physical helplessness, they often begin to feel numbness, shame, or rage towards their selves and bodies. DMT sessions encourage the body to communicate these emotions through gestures, movements, expressions. If survivors feel the need to verbalise and share further, they are listened to and validated. On a non-verbal level, there is catharsis and well as the reclaiming of the body by the self, and a felt experience of its fragility as well as its power. The most healing aspect of DMT for trauma survivors is the sense of physical autonomy and power that it cultivates. You are in charge of your own body, and only you decide how you wish to move.  DMT sessions create lived, felt experiences where survivors can express pain, but also power, aggression, rage, and strength. Survivors in a group can witness others’ experiences and struggle with the same emotions which is a powerful way to validate their own experiences.

By consistently inhabiting a space where you are in charge of your body – experiencing its weakness, as well as its wildness, its tiredness as well as its turmoil and energy- one begins to grow familiar with its rhythms and closer to one’s self.  Resolution occurs here on a psychosomatic level. Therapists observe the movement language of the client, understanding and exploring repetitive patterns of movement, their meanings and underlying emotions. By validating and exploring the metaphors that arise through the movements, integration between the mind and body emerges. Often, clients who have had difficulty verbalising certain emotions, begin to feel less threatened by them once they have articulated them physically – and begin to speak more deeply about them, and experience them differently. Their daily lives and interactions often alter. Kolkata Sanved’s work with a group of human trafficking survivors documented this reality. Clients who had experienced DMT over a 6-month period began to report greater comfort making eye contact, being assertive and feeling good about themselves and their bodies.

The term ‘dance’ movement therapy in itself is debated frequently between therapists who work with movement. The way most people see ‘dance’ is as something that is learned, practised, and used to seduce, entertain, or celebrate. Yet within the therapeutic space, we work with the creative rawness of movement, and the sole purpose is to express. There is no standard of physical perfection to strive for, but deeper emotional honesty. Tripura Kashyap has named her institute the Creative Movement Therapy Association of India, reinforcing the separation between traditional, populist notions of dance and the therapeutic realities of movement therapy.

The connections between art and DMT are being deepened, but if, at its core, art is an expression of what it means to be alive in the world (keeping debates on the subjectivity of aesthetics aside), then it includes the possibility of everybody cultivating art. Dance Movement Therapy is not focused on performance, but the cultivation of a space within you, from which expression emerges naturally, allowing the body to inhabit and move through its own metaphors, without aesthetic censoring. By giving physical permission for each human body to move without the pressure to look beautiful, or masculine, or socially appropriate, we make a small but powerful offering of freedom. We find a footing in a place that only requires us to be who we are, and express what moves through us. And this is art at its most alive and empathetic because it invites us to be free and to express ourselves and our stories without inhibition. One day the girl who always crosses her legs begins to stop. The week after that she dances, stamping her feet, and her gaze begins to raise itself from the floor.

If activism is about campaigning for the changing of a political or social order, then moving freely can be a way to explore and alter the embodied constructs of that order. Maybe a month from now, that girl will walk down a road and find someone staring at her. And for the first time in her life, she will not flinch, and she will stare back. Maybe his gaze will fall to the ground, or maybe it will continue to scrape her face. It doesn’t matter. She will have become the girl who won’t look away, because she finally feels strong enough not to. I believe that counts, because I have been where she has been. And in striving to move, speak and live more freely we are artists and activists, both.

(Special acknowledgments to Tripura Kashyap whose training and insights into DMT formed the backbone of this article, to Anubha Doshi, founder oArtsphere, Pune, for creating a space for a DMT community to emerge, and to Varun Vishwesh for photography.)

Pic Source: By Varun Vishwesh during the DMT workshop at Artsphere, Pune. Copyright belongs to Artsphere.

Stress Reduction through Art Based Therapies

Anubha Harlalka-Doshi

Aditi Suryanarayan

(For the Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Award of the Degree of MA in Clinical Psychology, Fergusson college, Pune in the year 2009)


The purpose of the research was to study the effect of Arts Based Therapy (ABT) on stress, as a state and trait in employees. There were 21 employees from Saama Technologies who participated in the study. It was a two group pretest-intervention-post-test design with 12 subjects in the experimental group and 7 in the control group. The Smith Stress Symptoms Inventory (SSSI) was administered to both the groups, as the pre-test as well as the post-test. The experimental group attended four sessions of two hours each, of arts based therapy. The sessions included dance therapy, drama and play therapy, visual art therapy and music therapy.

The T- test paired sample indicated there was a statistically significant reduction in stress as a state on all four days on the various parameters (Worry/Negative Emotion, Striated Muscle Tension, Attentional Deficits, Autonomic Arousal / Anxiety, Depression, Interpersonal Conflict / Anger) of the SSSI. Analysis of covariance was applied to the data and results show that there was a drop in stress as a trait on the parameters of Attentional Deficit and Interpersonal Conflict, in the experimental group. However, the reduction in stress was not statistically significant.

Key words:

Arts based therapy, stress symptoms, stress trait, stress state



Stress is a phenomenon that is experienced when a situation is appraised as exceeding the person’s adaptive resources (Lazarus and Folkman 1984).

Arnold and Feldman (1986) define stress as “the reactions of individuals to new or threatening factors in their work environment.” Since our work environments often contain new situations, this definition suggests that stress in inevitable. This definition also highlights the fact that reactions to stressful situations are individualized, and can result in emotional, perceptual, behavioural, and physiological changes

Art as Therapy:

Arts Based Therapy (ABT) is defined as the clinical and evidence-based use of art forms (music, drama and visual arts) to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. ABT is primarily an art form, practised scientifically, and based on the subtle energy theory. The subtle energy theory states that ‘reality is a perception, based on sensory input and cognition. Change in any of these will lead to a different reality.’ The human brain & subtle energy fields (endocrine system, human bio field) are the basic domains of treatment in ABT. Music, Drama, Movement and Visual art have observable effects on human brain functioning, and its effects can be used therapeutically.


Incidences of stress related problems in organizations are rapidly growing. According to the bio-psycho social model, new age lifestyle diseases are either caused or aggravated due to stress. ABT has been shown to have numerous health benefits, and as stress is a relativistic phenomenon and ABT a powerful inner experience, it could prove to be an effective stress management tool.

Stress is known to increase secretion of substances that directly suppress immune system activities. Research has proven that immune responses can be altered through imagery (in the form of story-telling, painting, visualizations, soundscapes etc.).

In another ongoing research, two Israeli drama therapists in the field of stress and post trauma management, are in Sri Lanka to impart the latest methods of dealing with persons suffering from these conditions after the tsunami. Distancing themselves from the traditional methods of care, they use creative art therapy, therapeutic cards and story telling as methods to train the trainers who will in turn use these methods to assists those suffering from various psychological problems.


14 employees participated from Saama Technology, an IT firm, through convenience sampling to take part in the experiment. There were 12 employees in the experimental group and 7 in the control group. The employees were in the age group of 19 – 35 years of age.

The test used in the study was the Smith Stress Symptoms Inventory (SSSI), developed by Jonathon C. Smith (2002). This inventory uses the state-trait approach and measures stress as a trait and as a state.


  1. The state level of stress is reduced after the intervention of arts based therapy.
  2. The trait level of stress is reduced after the intervention of Arts based therapy, as compared to no-treatment control group.


This study focused on arts based therapy and its effect on stress. It was a two group pre test – post test design, with arts based therapy intervention.

Pre Test and Post Test

The participants were administered the Smith Stress Symptoms Inventory State & Trait on the first and last day and were instructed to answer all the 35 questions before the session. In the rest of the sessions only the state inventory was administered.


There were four sessions of 2 hours each, once a week in the following order:

  • Dance therapy
  • Drama therapy
  • Visual art therapy
  • Music therapy


The present study intended to find out the effects of Arts Based Therapy (ABT) on the levels of stress, as a state and a trait in employees. The subjects who participated in the study were IT employees. There were two hypotheses –

  1. The state level of stress is reduced after the intervention of arts based therapy.
  2. The trait level of stress is reduced after the intervention of Arts based therapy as compared to the no-treatment control group.

Keeping the bio- psychosocial model in mind we believe that stress could be reduced by ABT and that it will differ in the six subtests, for each session. It is interesting to note that the reduction in these aspects varied in each of the four sessions.

In the first two sessions, Dance and Movement Therapy and Drama/Play Therapy were conducted. According to the results, Worry/Negative Emotion, Attention Deficits, Interpersonal Conflict / Anger showed a high statistically significant difference at .01 level and Depression at .05 levels, for both sessions.

For the third session – visual art therapy, the results indicate that Worry/Negative Emotion, Attention Deficits and Striated Muscle Tension, show a high statistically significant difference at .01 level and Interpersonal Conflict / Anger at .05 level. People must have found painting so relaxing that the muscle tension shows a significant drop here and not in the previous two sessions.

The last session was Music and drum therapy. The results showed that Worry/Negative Emotion, showed a statistically significant difference at .05 level. No significant difference in the other parameters was found.

The design of the experiment was to test the reduction in stress level and also make a comparative study of the differences that are reflected in the values of the six sub tests on the four days. The findings are consistent with existing research in this area. Thus the first hypothesis was supported.

The hypothesis stating “the trait level of stress is reduced after the intervention of Arts based Therapy as compared to a no-treatment control group” was not proven.

Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was applied to the data with the pretest scores as covariates. Results show that there was a reduction in stress in the experimental group in the aspects of Attentional Deficit (AD) and Interpersonal Conflict (IC). Though there is a reduction in stress with respect to these aspects, the results are not statistically significant. This is possibly because a trait is a relatively stable characteristic of a person. It is deep-rooted and hence difficult to change. Thus just 4 sessions of ABT were not sufficient to reduce stress as a trait of the employees.

In addition to SSSI, qualitative data tools like feedback forms and indicator table were used. According to the feedback analysis the findings were that 65% employees enjoyed dance therapy the most out of all the sessions. All activities were found to be innovative and fun by the employees. 75% employees felt de-stressed and relaxed after the sessions and 92% employees would like to attend such sessions in the future.

After the statistical results are considered and the qualitative data analysis tools analyzed, in the present study, it can be concluded that arts based therapy is successful in reducing stress.


 After the statistical results are considered and the qualitative data tools analyzed it can be concluded that the hypothesis stating that the state level of stress is reduced after the intervention of arts based therapy, is proven. The hypothesis stating that the trait level of stress is reduced after the intervention of Arts based Therapy as compared to a no-treatment control group, was not proven.


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Art Based Interventions for Children with Autism and Other Behavioral Issues

Varun Ramnarayan Venkit

Anand Sharad Godse

Key Words:

Autism, Art Based Intervention, Behavioural Issues, Group-Drumming, Creative Movement, Drama Based Interventions, Dance movement therapy.


Art therapy helps individuals experience increased well-being through a number of creative pathways, that uniquely illuminate purpose and meaning and increase positive emotions and engagement (Wilkinson and Chilton, 2013). Over the past decade, health psychologists have cautiously begun studying how the arts might be used with children having Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, to increase their understanding of the self and others, develop a capacity for self-reflection, enhance social skills, and alter problem behaviours and thinking patterns. Art based therapies are complex interventions, that combine psychotherapeutic techniques with activities aimed at promoting creative expression. The creative process is used to facilitate self-expression within a specific therapeutic framework, the aesthetic form is used to ‘contain’ and give meaning to the patient’s experience, the artistic medium is used as a bridge to verbal dialogue and insight-based psychological development, and the aim is to enable the patient to experience him/herself differently and develop new ways of relating to others (National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, 2009).

According to the American Psychiatric Association, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulty with social interaction, communication, and imaginative play; they also display stereotyped and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Individuals diagnosed with ADHD, according to the American Psychological Association, exhibit a persistent pattern of trouble, with inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity that is more pronounced than would be expected of individuals of a similar age. Behaviours that an individual with ADHD may live with, may be, low frustration tolerance, temper outbursts, bossiness, stubbornness, excessive and frequent insistence that requests be met, mood stability, demoralization, dysphoria, rejection by peers, and poor self-esteem (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Recent research shows that art therapy is useful for children with psychological disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD. Art therapy facilitates cognitive development, the development of abstract thinking skills, improvement of social skills, and helps in decreasing problem behaviours (Thoemke, 2012). A social skills program using art therapy for children with Autism revealed a significant improvement in their assertion, coupled with decreased internalizing behaviours, hyperactivity, and problem behaviour (Epp, 2008). A study of an Art Therapy group for Impulsive Children revealed an increase in the child’s ability for self-control and in maintaining their physical space appropriately. The children took fewer risks, were able to share more appropriately and showed an increasing ability to keep to the limits and rules of the environment (Murphy, Paisley and Pardoe, 2004).

Dance and movement therapy enables attention to kinesthetic coherence or motor coordination, that may be the stepping-stone to the successful treatment of young boys diagnosed with ADHD. It gives boys with ADHD a possibility, like other children, to have an activity outside school which increases a child’s quality of life (Grönlund, Renck, and Weibull, 2005).

Creative dance and movement can enable the children to rebuild a healthier connection with the body, senses and cognitive skills, improving body awareness and body image. It can help to give children a ‘sense of wholeness’ by connecting body, mind and emotions (Sherborne, 1990). Art therapy as a component to social skills training may increase the willingness of children to participate, because art is an activity that they find acceptable (Julian, 2004). Music stimuli have often been used as therapeutic media in treating children with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders (Nelson, Anderson and Gonzales, 1984).

The current research explores the relationship between engagement in the creative arts and health outcomes, specifically the health effects of music engagement and movement-based creative expression. There is evidence that art-based interventions are effective in reducing adverse physiological and psychological outcomes; and that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts, can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states as well as have a salient impact on important physiological parameters (Stuckey and Nobel, 2010).

Introduced in August 2013, under a non-profit research organization – FLOW in collaboration with Artsphere, Art Talks is a long-term, inclusive and experiential arts-based intervention program for children with special needs like expression blockages, confidence issues, ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism, Down Syndrome and other similar issues.

Under Art Talks, specific therapeutic goals are identified upon commencement of the program, for every individual participant, and through the use of arts-based interventions such as rhythm (drumming), creative movement, fine arts and drama, the following areas are worked upon:

Expressive skills – verbal and nonverbal, attention span, group and social etiquette, recall and memory power, sensory stimulation, introspection and awareness.


The following practice focused report is based on a project that ran for the duration of nine months from the 7th of August 2013 to the 17th of May 2014. Since it was a pilot study to adjudge the positive influences of art-based interventions in children with special needs, there was no fixed intake. Interested participants were introduced in the session as and when they enrolled.

Sessions were held twice a week. The first month was spent in rapport and therapeutic goal building. This seemed to be the minimum time required to elicit natural and unbiased responses from the participants, after they were comfortable with the facilitators, being without their parents, and started trusting the therapeutic process. This was also the period of time required for the facilitators to set an intention for the child that would be worked towards during the sessions.

There were two certified art-based therapists or head-facilitators, each with a team of one co-facilitator and one observer who led the sessions once a week. One of the facilitators was predominantly a dance/movement therapist and the other was a drum circle facilitator and majorly used drumming along with singing, movement, yoga, chanting as common tools for the sessions. Both facilitators worked towards the following goals:

  1. To bring out the inherent potential in children with special needs, using participatory and expressive arts interventions over a period of time.
  2. To increase attention span, expressiveness, confidence, sociability (group behaviour), and emotional awareness.
  3. To document the role of the arts in health and well-being of children with special needs.

Initial data was collected through in-depth interviews with the parents about their perception of their child, and their report of the child’s problem behaviour(s). Thereafter the child was put in the one-month rapport building or observation period where his / her ‘case report’ (Art Talks Report I) would be built. The facilitator, co-facilitator and observer maintained online reports after each session, reporting behaviour that showed positive movement in the target therapeutic goals. Each session had a plan based on a specific therapeutic goal. Based on this, each session was divided into warm-up activity, one or more main activities and a debriefing / cool-down activity. The observer would look for behavior indicators showing progress in the therapeutic goals identified for each child. Thereafter a progress report (Art Talks Report II) was generated after 3 months of the program, where feedback from the parents and school teachers was taken. This is also the period when the parent would be presented with a home plan. The home plan consisted of activities that would further reinforce the assimilation of our therapeutic goals. Finally, an end-of-module report (Art Talks Report III) was generated to mark the end of the stipulated 6 month module.


The cases that we studied showed noticeable positive differences in varying proportions on the parameters of expression (verbal and nonverbal), sociability (group skills), attention span and fine motor skills.

Using various components of arts such as drumming, creative movement, singing, stories and yoga-based activities, helped us provide a variety that kept the child engaged, and subliminally reinforced the therapeutic goals. Secondly, if a child did not take to a particular art form, then it was easy for the facilitators to narrow down to activities that worked for the child.

Dance Movement Therapy builds on the joy of movement and lust for life. When children are inspired to have fun together in a group, they can more easily share problems and even show compassion (Gronlund, 1994). In Dance Therapy, the connection between motion and emotion is stressed. The movement dialogue expands as the emotional content is brought to the surface, through the experience of moving the body. While words can be consciously disguised and self-censored to suppress the expression of emotional states, body movement is a more basic form of emotional disclosure (Berger, 1972). The dance movement therapy sessions, in our case studies, seemed to address the parameter of emotional expression more effectively than drumming. The children were able to identify their emotions with the activities better. These sessions also physically stimulated them more. Dance movement therapy expands self-expression and perception, builds body awareness, assists in defining and establishing healthy boundaries, releases tension and stress, increases the attentiveness of self and others, promotes building interpersonal relationships, and improves communication skills in children and adults of all ages and stages of development (Basiner,, 2007).

In congruence with the findings of Venkit et. al, (2012), drumming worked better on the parameters such as attention, retention & retrieval (memory) and motor co-ordination development. Functional areas described to be positively affected by music are, learning history and responsiveness to therapy; responsiveness to sensory stimuli; attentional processes; transfer of learning and coping with change; temporal perception; rhythmic movement and praxia; representation, symbolic functions, and language; communication and socialization; and meaning, affect, and activity repertoire (Nelson, Anderson and Gonzales, 1984). Improvisational music therapy was more effective at facilitating joint attention behaviours and non-verbal social communication skills in children than play (Kim, Wigram and Gold, 2008).

Drumming helps foster a sense of confidence and achievement by way of increased eye contact and conscious verbal expression (Venkit, et. al, 2012). Based on interviews with the parents four months after the sessions, the progress made over the pilot study was long lasting in their home and social settings. The children seemed to have internalized these changes, exhibiting instances of initiating communication and instruction comprehension in other social situations as well.


It would be unrealistic to attribute these positive changes solely to Art Talks sessions considering that the children were, on an average, also going to occupational therapy, speech therapy and external counselling sessions in addition to Art Talks. It would be desirable to establish a consolidated and intensive after-school programme for these children to address a majority of their needs under one roof.


Art based interventions seemed to work well in addition to the ongoing therapeutic plan of the special needs children. Increasing the frequency and scope of these sessions will help build more credibility for the application of arts as a form of therapy for such a group.


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Meta Analysis of DMT 2015

Analysis on Positive effects of Dance and Movement Therapy by the Pune students

Mugdha Shivapurkar

Counsellor/DMT Assistant

Movement is a human’s first form of expression. As children we learn to move first, before we even learn to speak. And as we grow we allow ourselves to be moulded by our culture and lifestyles. We let our movements be restricted within certain self-made boundaries. This then becomes a norm of our life.

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT)

Dance/movement therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.

– American Dance Therapy Association

Dance and movement therapists use nonverbal language expressed through a person’s body and design interventions to meet that person’s needs.

Review of Literature

Research has proved that dance is a healing art; That creative movement works wonders on adults and children alike. It helps in increasing a sense of vitality. DMT is seen to be beneficial for a wide range of individuals; ranging from those who are generally healthy as well as those who are emotionally or mentally disturbed, physically or intellectually disabled.

Dance interventions can help in reducing depression, increase positive feelings, improving mood, increasing a sense of well-being and bringing new life and energy, where it may be low or missing. DMT is not about performance or getting skilled in a particular form of dance. DMT is about creative expression where an integration of the mind and body takes place, which further fortifies, increases and speeds up the healing and recovery process. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), dance and movement therapy is recommended as a complementary treatment for individuals suffering with cancer to reduce stress and improve self-esteem. The ACS indicates that it is beneficial for providing exercise, improving mobility, muscle co-ordination, reducing muscle tension, improving self-awareness, self-confidence, interpersonal interaction, communicating feelings, and potentially strengthening the immune system.

A study from the journal, The Arts in Psychotherapy (2007), found that dance therapy had a positive effect on participants experiencing symptoms of depression.

Many other studies including a study from the American Journal of Dance Therapy (2004), in which 54 students participated in a dance therapy, violence prevention program, found that aggression among participants decreased and pro-social behaviors increased with the use of DMT. A literature review from the American Journal of Dance Therapy indicated that DMT may be a treatment option for children on the autism spectrum.


This meta-analysis is a compilation of case studies done by the participants for the partial fulfillment of the Dance Therapy Certificate Course. The research studies were mainly qualitative and discuss the benefits of dance therapy for the elderly population as well as children with special needs.

Discussion and Conclusion

Based on the studies, a considerable amount of qualitative data has been obtained which can be used for further research. The in-depth case studies done by the researchers show that dance therapy has positive effects on middle aged, elderly as well as physically/psychologically impaired population.

In a study conducted by Anita Gugale, it was found that the DMT interventions, conducted on Children with autism to enhance their social and communication skills, were successful. The children were more responsive and engaging at the end of the 3 month intervention. There were improvements in their vocabulary, co-operation and concentration. There was a considerable reduction in the tantrums of the children, and they enjoyed the sessions.

Supritha Aithal conducted another study on ‘Effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy for Well Being of Children with Hearing Impairment’. The study was intended to establish if there was a significant improvement in overall well-being of children with hearing impairment, through dance movement therapy. The study also aimed at analyzing several underlying factors and variables affecting each domain of well being of children with hearing impairment, and possible strategies that could be effective, through DMT. The researcher focused on designing and identifying a set of movement activities, which acted as therapeutic and recreational games, to facilitate the well being of these children. This was done by pre and post training comparison of 24 participants with profound hearing loss. Statistical analysis and descriptive analyses were carried out. The results revealed that DMT is effective in building psychological, physical and social resources in order to face the challenges and maintain the balance. The children with hearing impairment have been benefited extensively through this process.

In Sheeja Shaju and Naina Narang’s study, the research work was done in a corporate environment in Pune with 6 employees. Their ages ranged between 25 and 45 years. The participants extensive improvement in the domains of Group Cohesiveness, Understanding and Taking Ownership, Being Responsible for what they care about, and their Level of Awareness at the end of the DMT intervention.

Neha Oswal and Vanita Singhee wanted to study if ‘Dance movement therapy reduces anxiety and tension and leads to a relaxed state of being free, in the elderly’. This study was based on the effects of Dance and Movement Therapy on a group of six adults between the age group of 55 to 75 years. The participants took part in extracurricular activities at a community centre for the aged. With DMT, Neha and Vanita believed that the elderly could break away from the feelings of general monotony and unproductive nature of their existence and feel and become useful participants of society. The research work done with men and women who felt unwanted, non-productive, and constricted, was successful with an increase in confidence and participation.

This meta-analysis observed that DMT is beneficial for both physical and mental health. Dance therapy can be used to reduce stress, prevent diseases, and in mood management. In addition, DMT is highly beneficial in promoting self awareness, confidence, self esteem and free expression. Team building, cohesiveness anger management are some other factors that can be enhanced with the help of DMT. Dance/movement therapy can be used with individuals, couples, families, or groups. At the same time, it is also imperative that the process of DMT be administered on a regular basis for long-term effectiveness.

Meta Analysis of DMT 2014

A Meta Analysis of Dance Therapy based research with diverse populations by the Pune batch

 Claudia D’Mello and Vrutti Joshi

Dance is an experience that takes us on a journey beyond words. It is a unique physical discipline in which emotional, psychological, spiritual, intellectual and creative energies are unified and harmonized.

Dance movement therapy is practiced and applied in various places, such as eating disorder rehabilitation centres, medical and educational settings, and other health promoting programs. Specialized forms of Dance movement therapy have been shown to aid in various types of diseases and disabilities.

As part of the DMT course in Artsphere, Pune all the students were expected to complete a 72 hour internship and submit an APA style research report. We have listed some of the research findings of the students who worked with diverse populations.

Janhavii Pathak and Smrutika Parekh conducted a research on the implications of DMT on patients suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. The study was conducted with the patients of a rehabilitation center in Pune. The results derived from the post test data showed positive effects in the areas of physical factors (body attitude, physical contact, movement quality, energy level, memory, group co-ordination) Spatial factors, emotional factors (level of trust, phobias, anxiety, self-esteem, motivation, tolerance etc.), cognitive factors and social factors. Overall changes were noted in the participants, by their counsellors as well as by themselves.

DMT was studied as a medium of therapy for Stress Management in Corporates, by Ketaki Salvi. The purpose of the study was to study the effect of DMT on stress management as a state, in employees in the industrial environment. Psychological Online-stress test by Lovibond & Lovibond, who developed the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 42, was the test administered as a pretest and post-test measure. Various factors like anger, conflict, anxiety, negative emotions, muscle tension, depression and more were considered.  There was a significant reduction in stress and mood swings after the sessions, as revealed by the post test.

Dance movement therapy was studied as an intervention, to enhance the cognitive abilities in children with learning difficulties by Dr. Vasanthi Subramaniam. There were 6 boys in the age group of 13-14 years who participated in the sessions; the results were derived with pretest and post-test measures of individual and group coding tests. The study tested the effectiveness of DMT on enhancing areas of cognition like concentration, attention, visual-auditory span, memory, visual-auditory processing and understanding academic concept. It was found that dance movement therapy activities done during sessions had immense positive effects on the children facing learning issues. The effects of this therapy also translated into better academic performance by the children. The study effectively demonstrates that DMT enhances cognitive abilities in children with learning disabilities.

A similar study was conducted by Priyanka Jayram to explore the effectiveness of DMT as a treatment for Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms of poor impulse control, lack of concentration and inattention in children. The study was conducted on 6 students (age: 9-13 years) in Mumbai. The results revealed less tension in the upper body and evident improvement in eye & hand coordination among the students. An increased efficiency in memory skills and reduced body tension was noted.

Another study conducted by Arti Belpathak and Dr. Radhika Rawat explored the role of dance movement therapy in enhancing communication skills, self-esteem and body image of adolescents in a residential school. It was observed that the children experienced various processes such as body awareness, connection to the soul, increased attention span and emotion management among others.

A study was conducted by Sonal Patil & Rashmi Bandekar on girls with mental disabilities to improve their body awareness. The objective of the study was to determine if dance movement therapy improved body awareness, emotion management, attitude of acceptance and comfort level with good touch among adolescent girls with mental disabilities. The results indicated that DMT was an effective therapeutic technique in a special school setting.

A similar study to focus on dance movement therapy as a learning intervention for children with ADHD was conducted by Riddhi Jani on 16 children studying in standard 3rd, 4th and 5th in Rosary Primary school. Vanderbilt ADHD scale for teacher and parents were used. The post-test showed remarkable effect of DMT on Hyperactivity, Social Skill and Self-Esteem, but negligible effect was found on attention span, impulsivity and academic performance.

Another study conducted by Vaishali Vyas and Shubhangi Khasnis studied the effect of DMT on housewives of age group 32-48 years. There were 8 participants who attended the sessions for 3 months. The free online version of the Rosenberg Self esteem Scale was used to measure the self-esteem of the participants (pretest and post-test measures). The post-tests revealed higher levels of self-esteem, stamina, emotional expression, self-confidence, improved body image, reduced stress levels among other positive effects.

Dance movement therapy was studied as an intervention for enhancing self-esteem of student nurses by Ketaki Salvi. The study was conducted on 6 students. The Rosenberg Self Esteem Test was conducted as a pretest and post-test measure. There was a significant improvement in self-esteem after the sessions, as the post-tests revealed.

A study conducted by Megha Hindocha also focused upon improvement of levels of self-esteem of school going students living in slums. The post-test measures on the Rosenberg Self-esteem scale revealed improved self-esteem.

Akshata Parekh & Pooja Karkera studied the effectiveness of DMT as a tool to enhance the quality of life of senior citizens aged 60 years and above at an old age home. The post-test results revealed improvement in the quality of their movements, cognitive skills, quality of improvisations, body structure, reduced slouching, reduction in chronic pains, more self-expression through words and movement and improvement in their range of movement.


The review of researches conducted by various researchers focuses upon the effectiveness of dance movement therapy as an intervention to bring about positive therapeutic and overall changes and well-being. Dance Movement Therapy is a vast, relatively upcoming, promising therapeutic technique which holds immense potential and scope for undeterred development, healing and therapy.

DMT with Children at a Blind School

Nishtha Agarwal

It’s said, ‘as a therapist you should not have any favourites’ and I agree to it. But then sometimes you come across groups that you can’t help but fall in love with. In July 2015, I started working with one such group. This is a group of 10 visually impaired children between the ages of 6-11 years with different levels of blindness (partial to complete) who stay at a blind school in Delhi. When I met the Principal of the school she mistook me for a dance teacher and expected me to take dance classes with the kids. I wasn’t surprised as this happened pretty often. However, after I explained what DMT was all about, she seemed very interested and asked me to start working with these children. Since she was expecting dance classes, she didn’t have any therapeutic goal in mind that she wanted me to work on, except to make the kids move. So I decided to do a pilot session with the group and then come up with the therapeutic goals. However, after this session I decided to stick to the goal that the principal had in mind. The goal was to make them move, as I found that the kids displayed very little and restricted movements. Some of the observations that I made in the pilot session were:

  • Very low range of movement- the participants showed very little range of movement and had difficulty in even doing the most basic movements. For example, standing up straight and bending down to touch their feet.
  • Very little sense of direction- the participants showed very little sense of direction and could not distinguish between right, left, front and back.
  • Low body awareness- the participants were not aware of their different body parts and could not distinguish between their right and left hand.
  • Required constant guidance- the participants could not do movements on their own and required me to constantly do the movement with them.

Hence, keeping this in mind I decided to work on:

  • Making the participants become more aware of their bodies
  • Making the participants achieve a sense of direction
  • Inducing different qualities of movement as their movement was very uni-tone

And so began my work with this group. The main focus in the initial sessions was to make the group aware of their own bodies. Different body awareness activities were done with them to achieve this. The first was to ask them to move their different body parts in isolation. Although the younger kids were very excited and did this with great enthusiasm, the older kids resisted doing this saying “moving waist is what girls do”. It was interesting to chance upon these gender stereotypes that came in and how the boys overcame them. After a few sessions it was seen that they had moved past this reluctance and could move any body part now.

Another important point of focus in the initial sessions was to understand directions and developing an ability to move to different spaces on their own, without anyone’s help. One overlapping outcome of both body awareness and spatial awareness was recognizing directions. To keep this going they were made to take a certain number of steps in different directions to induce a sense of directions, namely, right, left, front and back. In the initial few sessions, the movement activities chosen involved very simple and basic movements. As I sensed a progress in their movements, we started including activities with a little higher pace of movement. Slow and fluid movements were introduced to break the pattern of very rigid and sudden movement qualities. A few weeks into the sessions, it was seen that the participants could now move on their own, count their number of steps and distinguish between different body parts and directions.

A tool that proved to be very important during this phase was touch. While a light touch aided one participant and gave him a sense of security and became a cue for him to move, it had a completely opposite effect on another participant, who started cringing from any kind of touch and stopped coming for the sessions altogether for a while. His body was seen retreating and closing every time I would use touch to aid him in the session. He chose to be absent for 2 weeks. After he joined again, it was made sure that no touch was used with him and slowly he was seen becoming open to touch with his fellow participants, and started taking part in activities that would involve holding hands, which he would refrain from earlier.

After a few sessions the participants were introduced to rhythm. They were encouraged to make sounds with their hands and feet by tapping their bodies or the ground, clapping or just by using their voice. This worked wonderfully for the group and has now turned into a closing ritual where everyone just sits in a circle and makes sound, sings or screams as they wish, ultimately leading into a synchronized rhythm. Props such as dandiya sticks were also used to develop rhythm and keep the development of a sense of direction and body awareness going. A byproduct of this was an increased level of concentration in their classes as the teachers reported that they were able to comprehend instructions better and sustain attention for longer periods.

As the sessions progressed, storytelling was introduced in the sessions. Open ended stories were narrated to the participants for them to be able to put their own ending to it. This not only pushed them to tap into their creative side, but also helped the therapist in tapping into their subconscious motives, as the participants enacted their perceptions of characters, situations and sounds, in stories narrated to them.

Simple ground rules such as not speaking over anyone, not hitting each other and only-one-person-speaks-at-a-time-while-the-others-listen, were set in the very beginning and were recalled at the start of every session. It was observed that even these rules had developed a new pattern of conflict resolution among the kids, as earlier they would all shout at and hit each other. On the contrary, if anyone in the group had a conflict during the sessions that I was conducting, they would prefer to sit in a circle like our opening and closing circle and talk about it to try and resolve the matter.

The sessions are still in progress and till now, movement therapy is proving to be immensely beneficial for the participants, as the activities are helping them increase their attention span, concentration level, body awareness, sense of direction, range of movement, emotional expression and conflict resolution.

The Importance of Training in Psychotherapy for a Dance Movement Therapist

Dr. Megha Deuskar


The present paper aims to define the upcoming field of Dance Movement Therapy, as a form of expressive art and also as an experiential form of therapy. It also aims to differentiate Dance Movement Therapy from other related approaches such as therapeutic dance. The paper explains the process of Dance Therapy in terms of its potential to bring to consciousness, a host of psychological and emotional issues that lie deeply buried in the mind, and thus to release them. Finally, it highlights the importance of extensive training of Dance Movement Therapists in psychotherapy and the micro-skills of therapy and more specifically of being psychoanalytically informed while conducting DMT sessions.

Key words: Dance Movement therapy, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis.


Over the past three to four decades, the use of creative art forms as adjuncts to psychotherapy has gained immense popularity. Music, drama, painting and dance have been among the most fruitfully used approaches to access deep seated emotions and release distresses. The Academy of Dance Movement Therapy, UK, defines Dance Movement Therapy as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance through which a person can engage creatively in a process to further their emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration” (ADMT, UK, 1977).

As in most experiential approaches to therapy such as the Gestalt approach, DMT believes firmly in the connectedness of body and mind. Hence, DMT therapists encourage clients to be aware of every sensation as it arises in the body, while they move, and of the various thoughts and feelings that are experienced through movement. This is because the body is considered a supremely wise and all knowing instrument, which stores emotions and sensations, even while they are being shut off by the thinking mind. DMT involves positioning the body and physical movement, ranging from simple stretching to vigorous and rhythmic dance. By connecting with the body, clients can freely experience suppressed emotions, which are then expressed and released. Dance is thus, a deeply cathartic process and in the long run allows clients to be more explicitly aware of their body.

Harpin (1999) has proposed the following basic assumptions about the use of Dance and Movement as a form of psychotherapy:

  1. Movement is an integrating process: Since the mind and body are not two mutually exclusive entities, but are highly intertwined with each other, a movement of the body can produce corresponding emotions and evoke feelings in the mind. Conversely, an emotion felt in the mind can reflect in body posture and movement. This is easily evident from the fact that depressed clients tend to feel lethargic, while people who experience joy, show a lot of energy and enthusiasm. In DMT, clients often report that simple stretching exercises or even gentle swaying can produce a distinct difference in feeling. Moreover, movement can allow clients to access symbolic and unconscious processes that are otherwise rather difficult to access (Stanton-Jones, 1992).
  2. Movement evokes emotions and cognitions that can be used to express other feelings and thoughts: Bonnie Meekums in her book Dance Movement Therapy (2002), describes several case studies of clients with whom she worked with DMT to help them access their deep pain and suffering. Meekums’ style being largely client centered, she allowed her clients to choose their own props and followed their lead in movement. She acts as a facilitator and also as a supportive, yet highly powerful and present therapist, while her clients dance. At particular points during the movement process, she points out her observations as to how they seem to be holding their body. Awareness of particular patterns, such as holding one part of the body too stiff or being disconnected from others, often leads clients to understand how such pathological patterns must have developed as coping mechanisms in childhood. When clients are given an opportunity to explore and express their grief and wounding from childhood, more varied feelings and cognitions emerge, which can then be dealt with.
  3. Movement, emotion and form, when expressed in relation to each other can lead to increased awareness and insight: Until recently psychotherapy was largely thought to be talk therapy, with little or no use of body movement. But very important advances in the research on neurology suggest that the process of accessing emotions is incomplete, without taking into consideration a whole plethora of feelings that are non-verbal or even pre-verbal. For instance, early mother-child interactions are mediated non-verbally (Schore, 1994) and leave indelible marks on the adult personality. DMT operates on the premise that certain patterns of movement contain a metaphoric significance. They help us to understand early attachment difficulties and also to correct such difficulties. Schore, for example points out that in early mother-child interactions, there can be needs to move towards, move against or move away from the mother, which are very sensory in nature. They are later felt as needs to “get close to someone”, “locking horns” or “needing some space” (Schore, 1994). Such feelings come up in dance and these metaphors serve as a bridge between emotion and cognition. With the help of a highly attuned therapist, such deep rooted attachment difficulties can also be corrected.
  4. Movement can deepen and expand clients’ sense of being and creativity: As clients learn to relate more fully to their bodies and to be attentive to signals from within, they gain a better sense of their own selves and of their personality. Therapists encourage them to move away from destructive patterns of relating to their bodies, and of denial. Finally, as clients try out new movements and feel the possibilities of new and healthy ways of being, they feel liberated, empowered and happy. They are more fully able to take charge of their lives and be creative.

How is DMT different from therapeutic dance?

Therapeutic dance forms are particular dance forms that are used for specific populations such as in schools, in prisons and with sexually abused women. They are usually practised by highly talented and skilled dance teachers and artists but who are not trained as psychotherapists. Bonnie Meekums outlines some such therapeutic dance forms (Meekums, 2002): Body mind centering (Cohen, 1980), Gabrielle Roth’s five rhythms (flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness) which she uses as a form of shamanism (Roth, 1990), and Circle Dance, which is based on folk dances (Meekums, 2000).

Several important differences between DMT and therapeutic dance have been pointed out by Meekums. For one, while DMT is essentially a form of psychotherapy, therapeutic dance is not. Therapeutic dance aims to stimulate creativity, sometimes to help achieve educational goals or to help develop interpersonal relationships. DMT on the other hand is meant to help clients to experience and heal psychological issues. Therapeutic dance forms are highly structured while DMT allows the free and unstructured use of movement to access psychological material. While the therapeutic dance teachers require training in their particular dance form, they do not require training in psychotherapeutic skills. The DMT therapist on the other hand has to have training in psychotherapy including clinical supervision, and as such operates within the professional limits of psychotherapy such as ‘no socialisation’ with the clients. They work with the inner imagery and symbolism of the clients, which the therapeutic dancers do not.

Despite these differences, there are obvious similarities between the two, leading to their distinction being very hazy for some. Both approaches make use of awareness of the body for self enhancement, and both involve the use of rhythm and props. DMT therapists may work with one client or with a group, while therapeutic dance is usually done in groups.

What are the basic tenets and processes of DMT?

In DMT, therapists work with clients in a safe space provided by their relationship with each other. The therapist, by being accepting and non-judgemental, allows the client to engage in a highly creative process. Meekums outlines four specific stages of the creative process:

  1. Preparation
  2. Incubation
  3. Illumination
  4. Evaluation

The Preparation stage consists of the initial interview wherein the therapist assesses the client’s problems and needs. A thorough case history taking, establishing safety for the client to share freely and also defining the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship, also called as the establishment of the working alliance, happens at this stage. A diagnostic formulation is usually prepared at this stage. Although preliminary, it serves as a guideline for the therapist to lead further sessions. In this stage, the client is verbal and therefore operating largely with the Left brain (the hemisphere responsible for conscious, verbal processing of thoughts).

In the actual dance movement sessions that follow, which is the stage of Incubation, clients are allowed to choose props and be fully attuned to their body. They are encouraged to let go of their inhibitions, and just experience all the sensations and feelings as they arise in the process of movement. Therapists may sometimes guide clients to make particular movements and exercises such as warm ups, breathing techniques, grounding techniques, the exploration of personal space, redirecting energy exercises, the mirroring exercise, symbolic work such as holding and letting go, and the shared group movement. Since clients do not know what material might come up for them, they are better able to “let their guard down”, in other words, they tend to resist less, than in other forms of therapy that involve talking. This incubation process is the most important part of DMT, which involves right brain hemisphere activity. Recent advances in neurology point to the fact that the right hemisphere of the brain is connected with deeply buried, unconscious emotional material. It is the seat of all symbolism and metaphor. Clients might experience powerful feelings like being “trapped”, “not fitting in”, “wanting to shake off something”, “wanting to reach out” etc., while performing movements. These feelings or imagery usually carry symbolic meaning, especially related to early wounds, which are cut-off from normal consciousness.

After a typical DMT session, therapists do a debriefing with their clients. This is the stage of illumination. Therapists may ask them to narrate their experience and ask pertinent questions such as “what are you scared to let go of?” or “what do you think makes you feel tossed about?”. While answering such questions, the clients come up with important realizations about their present emotional states as well as early hurts. This process involves a transfer of information from the right brain to the left brain. The insights derived from the creative, unconscious right brain are collected and processed verbally.

The last stage of DMT involves carrying of these insights in the day-to-day functioning, into the world. Having understood the source of emotional difficulties, clients use this knowledge to function effectively, act out less on the urges towards defeating and maladaptive patterns of behaviour, and live more creatively. This integration happens in the left hemisphere of the brain.

Therapists do formal assessments, history taking, risk assessment, actual use of techniques mentioned above, regular debriefing sessions and also undertake clinical supervision, while working with clients.

Why is it necessary to be therapeutically, and especially psychoanalytically, informed?

There are three important factors that make it necessary for DMT therapists to be knowledgeable as psychotherapists.

First, the therapeutic skills such as active listening, non-judgmental acceptance of the client and of one’s own self, validation, empathy and interpretation have to be sufficiently mastered, so as to provide the right atmosphere for the client to fully open up.

Second, the symbolism expressed by clients needs to be interpreted carefully. Early wounding related to oral, anal, or phallic conflicts may be expressed during the phase of incubation. The therapist being analytically informed, allows for better and accurate interpretation of these conflicts. Early defense mechanisms, resistances, confusions related to attachments and sometimes even precise memories, arise in the process of dance. These need to be understood and eventually released. Meekums describes the case of a young woman client who had developed the pattern of displacing her hurt of being constantly criticised by her father onto her legs, with the result that she hated them and often fell down and felt ugly about herself. Another client, while tossing a ball, suddenly chanced upon a realization that for long years in his childhood, he had felt tossed about between his fighting parents (Meekums, 2002).

Finally, as clients work through emotional trauma, the therapeutic relationship may sometimes go through intense turmoil. Clients might transfer their unmet needs, desires and fantasies onto the therapist. Therapists need to be attentive to such transferences and deal with them in a way that does not further wound the client, while at the same time not getting caught up in the clients’ pathology. Also, the therapist’s own counter transferences have to be dealt with, so that this does not stray the counseling process.


Dance movement therapy is a powerful psychotherapeutic technique that integrates the creative process with psychotherapy. It is unstructured, and aims to heal deep emotional wounds, unlike therapeutic dance. It requires intensive training on the part of the therapist, of psychotherapeutic skills and information.


ADMT UK (Association for Dance Movement Therapy UK) (1977). ‘Define dance movement therapy’, E-motion: ADMT UK Quarterly, 9 (1), 17.

Cohen, B.B. (1980). ‘Perceiving in action’, Interview by Lisa Nelson and Nancy Stark-Smith. Contact Quarterly, Winter, 20-28.

Harpin, D. (1999). Living artfully: Movement as an integrating process. In S.K. Levine & E.G. Levine (Eds.). Foundations of expressive arts therapy: Theoretical and clinical perspectives (pp. 133-149). London: Jessica Kingsley.

Meekums, B. (2000). Creative Group Therapy for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse: Speaking the Unspeakable. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Meekums, B. (2002). Dance Movement Therapy: Creative therapies in practice. London: Sage.

Roth, G. (1990). Maps to Ecstasy: Teachings of an Urban Shaman. London: Mandala.

Schore, A. (1994). Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: the Neurobiology of Emotional Development. Hillsdale, NJ and Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Stanton-Jones, K. (1992). An Introduction to Dance Movement Therapy in Psychiatry. London: Routledge.

Dr. Megha Deuskar,

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Fergusson College, Pune.


Current Trends in Dance/Movement Therapy

Mugdha Shivapurkar

“Movement is the medium in which we live our lives.” – Marian Chace

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) is a field that holds incredible potential and capability to develop. In the past few years, the world of Dance Therapy has grown and extended, accomplishing new heights every day. DMT is practiced in various clinical settings and is used for psychotherapeutic as well as physio-therapeutic purposes.

Dance has been used therapeutically for thousands of years. Though dance has been a mode of expression for ages, it wasn’t until the past half century, that it was considered as a form of therapy. The concrete establishment of dance as therapy occurred in the 1950s, with Marian Chance, who later founded the American Dance Therapy Association.

Research holds an important place within DMT and occurs at different levels within this practice. It allows the DMT practitioner to evaluate the outcomes of their work. Research can also be carried out to advance in the profession, by looking at new avenues and through findings from conference presentations and publications. A variety of methodologies, including qualitative, quantitative, arts-based approaches are used to study DMT. Many studies have recently been conducted, which are helping Dance Therapy in receiving more recognition and popularity.

A Cochrane review titled Dance/movement therapy for cancer patients, was conducted in January 2015. The three studies in the review included a total of 207 participants, who were women with breast cancer. The findings of individual studies suggested that dance/movement therapy had a beneficial effect on the quality of life, somatization and strength of women with breast cancer. Besides, there were no adverse effects of dance/movement therapy interventions.

The most recent Cochrane review for DMT was in February 2015, titled “Is dance movement therapy an effective treatment for depression? A review of the evidence”. The findings of the research stated that overall there was no evidence for or against DMT, as a treatment for depression, although some evidence suggested, that DMT is more effective than standard care for adults. There was a large positive effect observed for social functioning.

Another review of the effect of DMT on Parkinson’s disease noted that DMT appears to meet most requirements for exercise programs for patients with Parkinson’s. Benefits in gait function, balance, and quality of life were found in short-term studies, though further studies need to be done to see if any of these benefits are seen long-term.

Many international organizations are working towards taking Dance and Movement Therapy Forward. These organizations were established in order to uphold high standards in the field of DMT. Such associations help connect individuals to therapists and DMT.

The American Dance Therapy Association

The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) was founded in 1966 by Marian Chace, the first president of the ADTA, and other forerunners of creative movement. Along with setting standards, that therapists must attain to become licensed therapists, ADTA keeps an updated registry of all movement/dance therapists who have met ADTA’s standards. In addition, ADTA also publishes the American Journal of Dance Therapy and sponsors annual professional conferences.

There are only 6 ADTA approved master’s programs from which to earn Registered Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT) credentials: Antioch University New England in New Hampshire, Columbia College Chicago in Illinois, Drexel University in Pennsylvania, Lesley University in Massachusetts, Naropa University in Colorado, and Pratt Institute in New York.

The Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy, United Kingdom

The Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy, United Kingdom (ADMP, UK) was one of the first organizations established to regulate the field of Dance Therapy. ADMP, UK, accredits therapists and oversees that all regulations are followed.

There are five universities in the United Kingdom that offer graduate programs in Dance Movement Psychotherapy and have been approved by the ADMP, UK: Dance Voice Therapy and Education Centre, Bristol, Edge Hill University, Goldsmiths University of London, University of Derby and University of Roehampton.

The International Dance Council CID, Paris

CID is the official umbrella organization for all forms of dance in all countries of the world. It is a non-governmental organization founded in 1973, within the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, where it is based. It brings together the most important international, national and local organizations, as well as select individuals, active in dance. It includes every form of dance from classical, ballet, modern, folk, ballroom, Oriental, Tango to therapeutic, recreational, revivalist etc.

The members of CID are specialists in cultural studies, art historians, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, theologists, medics, choreographers, dance teachers, dance therapists, dance film directors and other professionals.

CID’S 49th World Congress on Dance Research – LINKING WORLDS THROUGH DANCE will be held at Dadar-Mumbai, India, from the 7-11 December 2016. For details of the conference please visit –

Healing Hands

                          I HOPE

Untitled you DANCE

A Bharatanatyam dancer with impeccable credentials, Tripura Kashyap has spearheaded Creative Movement Therapy, also known as Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) – in India. A conversation with her on the past, present and future of creative movement.

She’s always done things her own way: learnt Bharatanatyam at the famous and acclaimed Kalakshetra, but found the technique rigid and limiting for her, so went on to work with Chandralekha’s group, and even then, she went scouring libraries for books on Dance Therapy. In a dance domain that lay emphasis on a traditional movement vocabulary, she went looking for an unorthodox, fluid expression. Way back in the ’80s, Tripura Kashyap, then 48, claimed the fledgling Indian dance therapy sector as her own. After choosing Bharatanatyam to get rid of a squint, she let her love for Dance Therapy take her to the Hancock Centre in Wisconsin, USA, where she watched how it healed the depressed and the delusional.

As she embarks on a new affiliated course on Dance Therapy for educators across India, the choreographer and movement therapist speaks to Avantika, on why the discipline is now more relevant than ever before.

Q. What pushed you to take up dance?

A. I had a squint as a child. Someone told my parents that if I take up Bharatanatyam, the squint would go. So that’s the funny reason why I took up dance. Of course it went away. We were living in Mumbai at that time, but soon shifted to Nigeria. My parents wanted me to continue with dance and I used to keep coming back to India to learn. Eventually, I started choreographing my own pieces for audiences in Nigeria. Then I joined Kalakshetra and stopped choreographing.

Q. Did Kalakshetra prove to be a culture shock?

I had a strong reaction to it. Because I had come from Africa, Kalakshetra seemed very rigid, conservative and orthodox. It was about having to look like a Brahmin girl and having to dance in compositions only about Hindu gods. Even the shringar needed to have bhakti in it. But I finished my diploma and surprisingly got a First Class too.

Q. What triggered your interest in dance therapy?

A. I had a brother who was wheelchair bound. Whenever he heard music, he would always jump out of his wheelchair. I used to always ponder on ways to make him dance.

Q. How did you end up enrolling for a formal course?

A. In my 10-year-stint with Chandralekha’s group, I used to travel between Bengaluru and Chennai. In Bengaluru I worked in a library called Indian Institute of World Culture, where I accidentally met the American dance therapist – Dr. Grace Valentine. She invited me to study Dance Therapy at The Hancock Centre for Movement Arts and Therapies, in 1988.

Q. What was your introduction to dance therapy like?

A. The experience was mind blowing. For the first time, I saw non-dancers moving so gracefully. The whole idea of movement therapy has been developed to help people who don’t know how to dance. One is made to understand, that he or she is not dancing to escape from problems, but rather to confront them. I saw dance therapists working with different populations, like special kids, elderly and mentally challenged people, battered women and so on. My first movement class was very interesting. I went into a dance class when the teacher put on some music and asked us to move. While I froze completely, I could see the rest of the students moving though it happened to be a first class for everyone. After the class ended, the teacher said something very interesting. She said the scene resembled a beautiful choreography, since I was standing still and everyone else was moving around me. But once I started attending the classes, I found something breaking loose within me. All these years, I have been told how to dance. For the first time, I was dancing the way my body wanted to.

Q. How did your work with Indians shape up after the Hancock Centre experience?

A. In Bengaluru I worked a lot in rehabilitation centres with special children, schizophrenic adults, hearing and visually impaired people as well as mentally challenged individuals, among others. I did this to see how Dance Therapy can really change with different groups.

Q. Who should go for Dance Therapy?

A. Movement is something primal to us. In the womb itself, we are somersaulting and kicking. Even before we learnt to make sound, we moved. But as we grow into adulthood, the range of movement shrinks. Since it is so primal, every group I have worked with, including a normal functioning one, has benefited.

Q. What kind of teaching modules constitute Dance Therapy?

A. You have something called movement activities and games. In my sessions, I usually have something called the movement activity basket to help people open up their bodies in different ways. For instance, there are activities targeted at individuals who have difficulty expressing emotions. Initially I get them to make just body statues and then ask them to make emotional statues, expressing feelings of sadness, happiness and anger. Occasionally, you realise that people are using their bodies but not their faces. There’s a disconnect. The faces are often blank. Subsequently, I ask them to forget the body and just work with the face. Then other layers are added including sound, space so on.

Q. Is there a way out of stress and fatigue, integral components of an urban existence, through Dance Therapy?

A. I have been working a lot with multinational executives. The idea is to take them through a range of activities, where they learn how to move and to express themselves. The second segment of the program is aimed at stress release, where activities are arranged to help the participants calm down. The issue of trust building is also tackled, since there’s a lot of suspicion among people in this day and age.

Q. What are you currently working on?

A. Apart from workshops, there’s FCAT (a one-year-foundation course on creative arts therapies) by SMART (Studio for Movement Arts and Therapies, Bangalore), encompassing psychotherapy, dance, drama and visual art therapy. It’s affiliated with Parivarthan, a Bangalore-based counselling centre.

Crawling towards Freedom

Aarohi Doshi

“Sometimes I hurt because I dance, other times I dance because I am hurt. Either ways, dancing does it all.”

                                                                                                                                                         – Anonymous

This particular quote holds absolutely true for me. I have been immensely passionate about dance, and have been injured due to it too. All that kept me going in my tough days was Dance. I used to keep watching dance, experiencing it through someone else’s body and just moving my upper body, since I had an injured leg. I used to itch to move, without any bondages, any boundaries, any hesitation and any tension. I just wanted to engage in ‘free movement’. Unfortunately, I was stuck in that phase of feeling crippled for a really long time. In due course, I completed my studies in Psychology, my second passion, and was clueless about what to do next. I really wanted an amalgamation of the two most favorite things in my life, Dance and Psychology.

I had attended a few workshops on Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) but never really visualized it as my career option. It was either dance or psychology for me at that time. Slowly, I started finding deeper connections between the two and wanted to pursue Dance Movement Therapy as a career. I saw myself as a ‘dance therapist’ almost immediately. That clarity in vision and in thought was extremely enriching. I suddenly started feeling very confident about my career choice and started living a life of a dance therapist, even though I was yet to undergo any formal training.

I soon went on to take my formal training in DMT, but was a little hesitant to move at first considering my long sabbatical from dance, as I would call it. By the end of the therapist-training course, I was a new person. I had achieved this dangerous level of freedom and nothing could pull me down. I was so happy with myself. There was a great level of mind-body co-ordination, my hesitancy had vanished and I was more confident about being able to move and become a therapist. I had thought I had lost both those qualities, but I felt as if I have been given a new lease on life. I felt that I had reached another level of understanding of things around me, the joy of being able to move reflected clearly in my eyes. My body seemed lighter and I started feeling baggage-free. My communication had increased, even though my words were limited; I was communicating through my body and had an amazing level of attunement with those around me. I had started sensing things, going deeper within and almost always had a huge smile on my face. So many of my needs were fulfilled through DMT. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of the DMT program and I was all set to take it forward in the world.

The pattern of the course was such that we had to take up an internship after the course. I was sure I wanted to work in Pune (since I was based in Pune and knew I had opportunities). I approached my mentor in Pune and cheekily asked her to offer me an internship. Honestly, I didn’t give her a choice! In a week’s time, I was ready to take my first ever DMT session as a facilitator. But I was nervous! I felt a huge sense of responsibility towards the population I was working with, but I made sure my body language reflected my confidence and readiness to take up the session. I just closed my eyes and thought about my passion for DMT and took the session. The session went off beautifully, the children getting to know the new therapist in their lives. The batch that we were working with, was a naughty one. They were a really bright lot, with great understanding and observation capacities. Their needs that we had identified on a broader spectrum, were social needs. There was a disparity between the level of intelligence and the behavior they exhibited. They were a batch that lacked obedience, discipline and respect for teachers. I was accompanied by a co-therapist helping me with this group of ‘grown up children’. We had a huge challenge in front of us, that to help the children to fulfill these needs. The therapeutic goals we had, were to create awareness about the self, regarding the body, their resilience power, their attention span and their focus.

Days, weeks and months passed and I saw a huge improvement among the children. They responded well to therapy and started introspecting. They came to understand the difference between feelings and thoughts and between “feeling in the body” and “feeling emotionally.” They began to acknowledge and respect teachers and others, bringing a sense of obedience in the class. Complete discipline was yet to be established, since it seemed that a few children always had this need to disturb the class. This mischievous gang always wanted to ‘enjoy’ in the class, run around and were very hyperactive. I used to try and think of newer ways so that I could bring them to a point of mild discipline. I didn’t seem to get a break-through, until I made them do a structured choreography about positive and negative sides, that an individual has. We made two equal groups; with equal number of people in each group, representing the positive and negative sides in each person. This activity greatly impacted the children and made them understand deeply, how there are positives and negatives in each person and how to make the correct choices, without being too critical for the negatives in us. They became more open bodily as well as emotionally. They were ready for therapy.

The much-needed break through made me feel happy and back on track. The group of mischievous children had turned into a thoughtful lot and it had started reflecting in their well-being. They were still naughty to an extent, but I managed to keep them interested and grounded in the activities for a longer time. They responded extremely well to warm ups on Bollywood songs, and I could see the change in each child. There was a vast difference in the way they behaved and reacted. I felt their maturity came to the forefront and they just needed a way to channelize their energies. I kept building on their strengths, while helping them identify, accept and work on their weaknesses. I was concentrating on the overall development of the children, while focusing on their social behaviour.

I saw the effect of DMT right in front of my eyes, with the children really opening up and accepting themselves and showing a readiness to work on themselves. I am still working with these children and hope to spot many more changes in them. I am really enjoying these sessions filled with fun, introspection and learning. More than them, it has been a learning experience for me. It has changed me and I am sure it will bring about a positive change in others. I really want to be able to take DMT to the masses and to foster participation,  so as to be able to bring about self-discovery in each individual.

A DMT session with the children
In Progress
Some Christmassy Fun