Research on the Efficacy of Dance/Movement Therapy is Growing

The body of written work for and about dance/movement therapy is ever expanding, offering growing evidence for the professional recognition of the field. The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) Blog team compiled this list of recent and relevant scholarly writing related to the practice of dance/movement therapy.

The Efficacy of Dance/Movement Therapy Group on Improvement of Quality of Life: A Randomized Controlled Trial in The Arts in Psychotherapy by Iris Bräuninger


(Excerpted and summarized from Abstract:)

“This study examines the treatment outcome of a ten weeks dance/movement therapy intervention on quality of life (QOL).” Dance movement therapy was found effective in the short and long-term to improve QOL.

Mirroring in Dance/Movement Therapy: Potential Mechanisms Behind Empathy Enhancement in The Arts in Psychotherapy by Lucy M. McGarry, B.Sc. and Frank A. Russo, PhD


(Excerpted from Abstract:)

“Mirroring, an exercise practiced in Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT), is considered by practitioners and patients to enhance emotional understanding and empathy for others…In this review, [the authors] propose that mirroring in DMT enhances understanding of others’ emotional intentions through enhanced use of mirror neuron circuitry.”

Effects of Dance Movement Therapy and Dance on Health-Related Psychological Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis in The Arts in Psychotherapy by Sabine Koch, Teresa Kunz, Sissy Lykou and, Robyn Cruz

(Excerpted from Abstract:)

“In this meta-analysis, we evaluated the effectiveness of dance movement therapy (DMT) and the therapeutic use of dance for the treatment of health-related psychological problems… Results suggest that DMT and dance are effective for increasing quality of life and decreasing clinical symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Positive effects were also found on the increase of subjective well-being, positive mood, affect, and body image.”

Fixing The Mirrors: A Feasibility Study of the Effects of Dance/Movement Therapy on Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Autism by Sabine C Koch, Laura Mehl, Esther Sobanski, Maik Sieber and, Thomas Fuchs

(Excerpted from Abstract:)

“[The authors] tested a dance movement therapy intervention based on mirroring in movement in a population of 31 young adults with autism spectrum disorder (mainly high-functioning and Asperger’s syndrome) with the aim to increase body awareness, social skills, self-other distinction, empathy, and well-being…Results suggest that dance movement therapy can be an effective and feasible therapy approach for autism spectrum disorder, while future randomized control trials with bigger samples are needed.”

Shall We Dance? An Exploration of the Perceived Benefits of Dancing on Well-Being in Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice by Cynthia Quiroga Murcia, Gunter Kreutz, Stephen Clift and, Stephan Bongard


(Excerpted from Abstract:)

“Quantitative and qualitative analysis revealed that dancing has potential positive benefits on well-being in several aspects. In particular, beneficial effects were found related to the emotional dimension, as well as physical, social and spiritual dimensions. In addition, the positive benefits were also linked to self-esteem and coping strategies.”

Navigating the Dance of Touch: An Exploration into the Use of Touch in Dance/Movement Therapy in American Journal of Dance Therapy by Norma Matherly



(Excerpted from Abstract:)

“The study is intended to be an initial exploration into how the issue of touch is approached and used in the DMT session. Several incipient themes are identified and discussed, and the need for more research and involvement by the DMT field is emphasized.”

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) for Depression: A Scoping Review in The Arts in Psychotherapy by Andrea Mala, Vicky Karkou, and Bonnie Meekums

(Excerpted from Abstract:)

“Research evidence suggests that exercise has positive effects on mood. Similarly, it has been argued that dance has a positive social-cultural influence on a person’s wellbeing…In this paper a scoping review is presented that engaged with an extensive search to best answer the question: Is there good quality research evidence available regarding the effectiveness of D/MT and related fields for the treatment of depression?”

Effects of Dance Therapy and Ballroom Dances on Physical and Mental Illnesses: A Systematic Review in The Arts in Psychotherapy by Marie-Sophie KiepeBarbara Stöckigt and, Thomas Keil

(Excerpted from the Abstract:)

“This systematic review aims to evaluate the effects of dance (movement) therapy and ballroom dances as therapeutic interventions for adults with physical and mental illnesses in comparison to other interventions or care as usual.”

The Acute Effects of a Specialized Movement Program on the Verbal Abilities of Patients With Late-Stage Dementia in Alzheimer ’s Care Todayby Shoshana Dayanim


(Excerpted from the Abstract:)

“In a pretest/posttest design, patients participated in 20-minute movement groups. Results indicated a statistically significant decrease in patients’ aphasia and/or agnosia following the program. This study is the first to indicate that movement has the ability to immediately affect the memory recall of patients with late-stage AD.”

Related reading:

We know there is much more scholarly information out there; inform us with your comments below. View ADTA’s compiled reference of Research on the Effectiveness of Dance/Movement Therapy here.

A special thanks to Robyn Flaum Cruz and Jennifer Tantia for their expert guidance and support.


Bräuninger, I. (2012). The efficacy of dance movement therapy group on improvement of quality of life: A randomized controlled trial. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39(4), 296-303.

Dayanim, S. (2009). The acute effects of a specialized movement program on the verbal abilities of patients with late-stage dementia. Alzheimer’s Care Today. April-June, pp. 93-98.

Kiepe, M., Stöckigt, B., & Keil, T. (2012). Effects of dance therapy and ballroom dances on physical and mental illnesses: A systematic review. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39(5), 404-411.

Koch, S., Kunz, T., Lykou, S., & Cruz, R. F. (2014). Effects of dance movement therapy and dance on health-related psychological outcomes: A meta-analysis. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41 (1), 46-64.

Koch, S. C., Mehl, L., Sobanski, E., Sieber, M., & Fuchs, T. (2014). Fixing the mirrors: A feasibility study of the effects of dance movement therapy on young adults with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 19(3), 338-350.

Mala A, Karkou V, & Meekums B. (2012) Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) for depression: A scoping review. The Arts in Psychotherapyvol.39, 287–295.

Matherly, N. (2013). Navigating the dance of touch: An exploration into the use of touch in dance/movement therapy. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 36(1), 77-91.

Mcgarry, L. M., & Russo, F. A. (2011). Mirroring in dance/movement therapy: Potential mechanisms behind empathy enhancement. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 38(3), 178-184.

Murcia, C. Q., Kreutz, G., Clift, S., & Bongard, S. (2010). Shall we dance? An exploration of the perceived benefits of dancing on well-being. Arts & Health, 2(2), 149-163.