Dance Movement Therapy with the elderly began in America in the early 1940’s with Marian Chase, the mother of dance movement therapy. She worked with psychiatric and elderly patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington DC where she based her work on the principle that psychological issues are held within the body. She believed in dance as a form of communication that filled a basic human need.
Similarly to Drama therapy, most dance therapy is practiced in a circle, or begins and ends in a circle so as to make sure that everyone is seen by others in the group as well as the facilitator. Also, a circle enforces connectedness and a sense of community, enhances socialization and enhances self awareness often impaired with those living with dementia. Often through the use of imagery, fantasy and recollection, symbols are used to allow individuals to work through problems that might be difficult to express verbally. Exploring symbols through movement and sound provides a non-threatening environment where a sense of trust can be created and fortified. Symbolism can lay the ground work for developing themes based on similar movements in the group—therefore it is important for the facilitator to identify these commonalities because this is where the group can find cohesion and support and a sense of belonging.
Dance movement therapy can also be practiced one on one. Mirroring or taking a person’s movements is an important way to identify and connect with the client’s state of being. Often called non-verbal empathy, this term is referred to as empathic reflection and is used to describe how the therapist uses the body as an instrument to attune the client. Rather than imitating the person, it is important to experience what they are feeling through their body via gestures, expressions and posture. This builds trust in a therapeutic relationship.
Dance movement therapy provides psychosocial and physical benefits to those with dementia. The psychosocial aspect becomes the motivating factor in dance therapy when dealing with an illness as complex as dementia. Individuals with the disease often become isolated, and dance therapy is one of the wonderful ways to engender social interaction, physical exercise and emotional health.
Shifts in personality, difficulty with communication and sometimes challenging behaviors due to the frustration with the disease represent some of the effects that often cause an individual with dementia to withdraw, socially shut down emotionally, and eventually to become isolated. More often than not, family, friends and even professionals have a hard time coping with these changes. Dance and Movement therapy can be the answer because it can connect a person to the world around them in ways traditional therapies cannot. Through the coordination of sound, rhythm and movement, individuals can connect in ways that are unbelievable.
A few Psychosocial Benefits of Dance/ Movement Therapy:
– Alternative approaches to communication
– Encourages social interaction and communication
– Increase of self awareness (personally and in relation to others)
- Provides a channels for agitation and or aggression into healthy expression
- Improves and/or manages symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Maintains and at times improves memory and cognitive functioning
- Strengthens neurological pathways
- Provides opportunities for safe, dignified expression
Please be sure to check our listings for PRACTITIONERS who can help. They are listed under Therapeutic & Artistic Practitioners under the NY Resources & Professionals tab on our home page or click right here: https://lewybodyresourcecenter.org/ny-resources-professionals/therapeutic-artistic-practitioners/