Updated: Jun 21
Movement therapy works as a medicine to help you let go of physical tension and to develop self-awareness. Learn how exercise can help you heal from injury.
Movement therapy encourages you to use the movement of your body to promote your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Therapists use exercise to heal.
Movement is a way to bypass the conscious mind and bring unconscious tendencies (both emotional and physical) to light, to let go of physical tension that contributes to disease and to express feelings, to develop self-awareness.
Dance therapy is probably the most therapeutically oriented approach to movement, and has been an alternative treatment method since the 1960s.
Practitioners must have a master's degree in Dance and Movement Therapy and can become a Board Certified Dance and Movement Therapist (BC-DMT) by meeting the requirements of the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA).
Therapists work in settings ranging from mental health facilities to rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. Some therapists work in private practice and may work one-on-one, with couples or with groups.
The goal of the therapy is to help you deal with psychological challenges, achieve greater self-expression and become a more fully integrated person emotionally, cognitively, physically and socially.
Although anyone can benefit from dance therapy, this therapy can be especially useful to people who aren't verbally expressive, including young children and older adults with dementia.
Therapists may incorporate many different approaches to movement, ranging from subtle, everyday movements to improvisational dance depending on the needs and abilities of the person receiving therapy.
The cost of seeing a dance therapist in private practice ranges from about $60 to $100 or more for an individual one-hour session. Group sessions cost less.
Somatic movement therapy
Somatic movement refers to having a detailed awareness of what your body is doing.
The purpose is to become conscious of unconscious, habitual ways of moving that are detrimental to your physical health or ability to function and to develop a conscious way of moving that supports you.
Somatic movement practices are popular among dancers, athletes, performers and other people who need excellent awareness and control of their bodies. Another use of these practices is to help you recognize dysfunctional movement habits that interfere with your daily life and cause pain.
You can then find and develop new movement patterns that help relieve pain and improve the function of your body.
Many practices fall into this category. One is the Alexander Technique, where a teacher gently guides you with hands and verbal directions through movements.
You may start with everyday movement such as sitting down, standing up, bending and walking, and then progress to movements involved in activities where you'd like to see improvement, such as playing a sport or a musical instrument, or to movements that improve your function after an injury or illness.
An individual one-hour session with an Alexander Technique teacher typically costs between $50 and $100.
Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement is a group class where the teacher leads you through specific structured movements that let you explore, and potentially change, your movement patterns.
Other practices classified as somatic movement therapies include Continuum Movement, Kinetic Awareness, Sensory Awareness, Rolfing Movement Integration, Rosen Method Movement, Trager Mentastics and Body-Mind Centering. Costs vary but are comparable to the costs of an Alexander Technique session or Feldenkrais class.
Pilates, yoga and tai chi
Some sources, such as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, consider movement therapies to include some popular exercise types, like Pilates, that cultivate body awareness.
The Eastern movement practices of qi gong, tai chi and yoga could also fall into this category. This broad definition of movement therapies can only apply to practices where developing awareness is the central objective.
Dance can be an excellent way to connect with your body and learn what it is capable off and a great way to keep physically active and have fun.