Effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy techniques when working with PTSD – I Intro

the dance picasso



Critical Literature Review
This review is a first attempt to show the effectiveness of three techniques from the treatment of PTSD used in DMT with the help of articles from other fields of
psychotherapy that use similar principles.
effectiveness, dance movement therapy, body-oriented psychotherpy, trauma



Trauma is a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury (Koch 2011- 8). It is a psychological reaction that occurs after experiencing a highly stressing event outside the range of normal human experience and that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event.

Based on the empirically supported premise that the body, mind and spirit are interconnected, the American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual. In the whole review the abbreviation
DMT is used.

And where is the relationship? Trauma leaves its imprint on both mind and body and research demonstrate that effective treatment requires involvement of both. Therefore it was decided to choose three techniques from Dance Movement Therapy used by three Dance therapist actives on the field: Jeannette MacDonald, Laura Pierce and Zvika Frank.


Only articles published after 2000 were selected in order to provide an updated vision. However, the article of Zvika Frank from 1997 was also selected due to his clear explanation of DMT techniques. Articles focused on other creative therapies, or
psychomotor therapies were excluded in order to focus more deeply in DMT. Other fields were included to give support to the effectiveness of the techniques; body centered psychotherapy, neuroscience, psychology and psychotrauma. Trauma related articles were also taken into account, opening the spectrum and not focalizing only in those dealing with PTSD.


DMT Techniques

The techniques are not exclusive to DMT (as mirroring could be); other schools and methods have similar techniques. It is well known that the creative arts therapies clearly utilize more generic therapeutic processes that overlap with many more established trauma treatments, such as relaxation, exposure, desensitization, cognitive interventions, narrative techniques, and distraction (Johnson et al 2009 – 586).
In addition, the lack of a systematisation in DMT creates an added difficulty in the naming process, mixing sometimes techniques and objectives of the therapy. For example body awareness techniques do not follow a specific technique, it is a compendium of different exercises varying from therapist to therapist.

In the beginning, deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques were one of the DMT techniques selected because they are standard elements in most forms of creative arts therapy for trauma (Foa 2009 – 600). However, there was not much explanation in the DMT sources and according to the guidelines for Effective treatments for PTSD (Foa et al 2000 – 562) relax is not recommended as it may lead to relaxation-induced anxiety in some clients and has been found to be less effective than other therapies.

Theoretical framework for a dance movement therapy-informed approach to treating trauma-related dissociation. (Pierce 2013 – 41) The three techniques selected are here already mentioned:

BODY AWARENESS – 5 sense perception, interoception and self awareness-,

METAPHOR – symbolism- and

ACTIVATING – creative expression.

Conclusion & Bibliography

click on each of them to read more…