Thalpos-Mental Health

We live better when we dance

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We live better when we dance

By the Psychologist of "Thalpos Kalamata" Evie Tsikrikou

Since ancient times, dance has been integral part of people’s everyday activities. In general, dance refers to human movement, used as a way of expression and presented as the social, mental or rhythmic performance of human body.

Movement is automatically the most basic and the most direct way of communication. From the beginning of humanity, the course of life has been strengthened and facilitated with ritual dances such as birth, fertility, forage, coquetry, therapy and death. Each part of life has been its own kind of dance. Participation in such dances gives strong sense of identity, boosts the sense of community and provides the necessary mental strength to deal with difficult situations. In fact, the Ancient Greeks tended to believe that dance is boon.

In recent years, we have known more and more about the Art Therapy (Drama Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Therapy) which gives us the opportunity to come closer to our mental health through creativity. Most specifically, Dance Therapy is a creative form of psychotherapy. Its means is the movement, that is to say, the expression of human body. This kind of therapy aims to offer a safe psychotherapeutic place where the person can explore physically, emotionally and mentally itself and its relationship with others. Dance Therapy is based on the principle which says that the way we move and non-verbally express ourselves indicates our feelings in connection with others. Our personal movement expresses the attitude we have about the environment, ourselves and others. Our feelings, decisions and our own mentality can be perceived by those who are educated at movement's observation. According to the American Dance Therapy Association, "Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, cognitive, social and physical integration of the individual for the purpose of improving health and well-being."

The effectiveness of DMT lies in the fact that the body is included in the process of exploration, expression, outlet and transformation of feelings. During Dance Therapy, the person gets closer to himself through body and its spontaneous movement and effectively finds a priceless treasure: the experience of deeper, more creative and alive self. This results in the reinforcement of trust in body memory (Goodwin, A. Pallaro 2007 p.369) and its messages, the indisputable experiential knowledge of inner reality and at the same time the education of person to come back to his body when thoughts and words are getting more confused than helpful (Penfield 1992, p.168).

Feelings tend to invade and distract our thinking (Dr. Janov, Primal Therapy p.278). In Dance Therapy, body, breath and senses are the means of connection. Dr. Janov points out that there is no significant change in neural network if there is no the connection. When the person is connected with his body, feelings and thoughts, in way of psychosomatic experience and expression, the change is deep and in all levels. Then, he is able to perceive the inner and outer reality.

Dance Therapy can be implemented both in personal and group level. Also, its activities can be acted both by children and adults. In particular, people who can benefit from DMT are those who:

  • experience emotional problems, stress and anxiety,
  • are willing to develop their communication skills, to explore and understand themselves,
  • deal with physical problems such us image disorders or movement difficulties,
  • feel stressed with distance, physical contact or trust,
  • cope with stressful, transitional periods or periods of changes and
  • feel that some problems remain unsolved for a long time.

More generally, group of people who can benefit from Dance Therapy are those who deal with:

  • mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, personality disorders, depression, agoraphobia or anorexia,
  • psychological illnesses, such as post-traumatic disorders or sexual abuse,
  • learning difficulties, physical disabilities, autism, genetic Syndromes, Tourette Syndrome, Down Syndrome,
  • emotional and behavioural difficulties,
  • addictions and
  • ageing.

In conclusion, Dance Therapy:

  • facilitates self-awareness.
  • Enhances self-esteem and personal autonomy,
  • reduces anxiety,
  • encourages reminiscing,
  • enhances thinking – emotions - behaviour connectivity,
  • focuses on non-verbal communication,
  • manages of painful thoughts and feelings,
  • improves emotional, cognitive and physical changes and
  • contributes to development of trust.