Dance has played an important role in human culture for centuries. Before the evolution of the written language, it was one of the methods people used to recount traumatic events and pass the stories down from generation to generation. It’s an ancient and powerful way for people to express themselves and deal with painful feelings and emotions.
This is the premise on which dance and movement therapy (DMT) is based. Practitioners believe that individuals suffering from PTSD and other forms of trauma can benefit from having a better understanding of their body and mind, giving them more control over their feelings and reactions to negative thoughts.
The technique uses movement to access hidden emotions and express them non-verbally, allowing them into the conscious mind.
DMT is particularly effective for treating children affected by trauma, as they have difficulty verbalising their emotions.
How can dance therapy help children affected by trauma?
- DMT and other forms of creative art therapy give children the opportunity to grow and develop self-awareness through self-expression. This has been shown to reduce stress and accelerate psychological and physical healing, following trauma.
- Creative arts such as dance, drama and sandplay therapy enable younger children – and young people who lack certain language skills – to safely access their feelings without the need for words. Instead of speaking, children can express their feelings through symbol and metaphor. This creates a ‘safe’ distance between them and their often-overwhelming feelings resulting from loss, abuse, neglect and trauma.
- Expressive arts can assist in the healing process by altering a child’s physiology. When children engage in expressive arts, it alerts the parasympathetic system in their brain. Their breathing slows, their blood pressure lowers, and the body becomes more relaxed. This helps reduce the physiological hyperarousal, or fight-or-flight response, associated with stress.
Dance therapy for therapists
DMT can also be an effective way for you as a practitioner to look after yourself and keep your brain young. Research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that dancing can help maintain youthfulness of the body and mind. It triggers a release of feel-good endorphins and connects with the emotional centres in the brain. For many people, dancing prompts an emotional release – often its uncomplicated happiness, while for some it can make them cry. It’s cathartic – a letting go of pent-up emotions. Its therefore a great tool for self-care.
It turns out the Bee Gees Were Right: You Should Be Dancing!
If you want to learn more about creative trauma therapy and the benefits of DMT for your patients, why not sign up for one of my trauma training courses? They are currently the only trauma focused courses on offer in the UK.
Places are available on my Certificate in Working Creatively with Trauma™ course, which is taking place over five weekends, commencing on Feb 2/3. On this course, I’ll show you how you can use creative arts therapies to understand the most commonly-used trauma treatments and equip you with evidence-based theory and practical skills to work with children affected by trauma.
The aims of the course are:
- to teach you to identify and treat symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
- Learn techniques to use with both single incident and relational or complex trauma.
- Provide you with accessible ways of using creativity to relate to clients who have experienced trauma.
- Teach you how to use trauma therapies such as trauma-focussed CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).
If you want to learn more about how to work with patients affected by trauma, have a look at the courses I offer and book your place here.