A summary of 23 trials about the effectiveness of dance & movement therapy

In 2014 a meta-analysis was carried out in order to examine 23 primary trials about the effectiveness of dance and movement therapy (DMT). Results show that DMT increase quality of life, wellbeing, positive mood, body image and decrease depression and anxiety. Interpersonal sensitivity, social relatedness and various health-related issues were also investigated and found capable of being addressed successfully in DMT.


Dance and movement are one of the most ancient forms of healing. Dance and movement therapy has become an evidence-based treatment and an established profession. And what is DMT exactly? According the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), it is used therapeutically to strengthen the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual. The European fellow organisation added even the „spiritual” realm to this list.


Out of the 23 studies, 15 focused on clinical populations, whereas 8 trials worked with subclinical and non-clinical populations. All of the included studies offered a satisfactory degree of methodological quality. The outcomes were classified into five main clusters: 1) quality of life, 2) well-being, 3) mood and affect, 4) body image, and 5) clinical outcomes. Moreover, sub-analyses of clinical outcomes related to depression, anxiety, and interpersonal competence were conducted.


Forest plot from seven trials assuming random effects, representing the SMDs (95% CI) for effects of DMT and dance interventions (experimental groups vs. control groups) on well-being, mood and affect. SMD > 0 indicates an increase, SMD < 0 a decrease in well-being, mood and affect.


In sum, the study provided a comprehensive summary of the current state of research on effects of DMT and the therapeutic use of dance on health-related psychological outcomes. It suggests that DMT and dance are effective interventions in many clinical contexts. Empirical support was found for an increase in quality of life, well-being, mood, affect, body image, and clinical outcomes, and particularly for a decrease of depression and anxiety. Due to unexplained heterogeneity across results, effects for interpersonal competence remained inconclusive, requiring further attention. The study supports DMT and dance as an effective and useful treatment method in clinical and prevention contexts.


For more details about the methodology utilized and the figures deducted, visit the original meta-analysis on Research Gate.


Source: Effects of Dance Movement Therapy and Dance on Health-Related Psychological Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis