Towards a neurocognitive approach to Dance Movement Therapy for mental health: A systematic review

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) has become an increasingly recognized and used treatment, though primarily used to target psychological and physical wellbeing in individuals with physical, medical, or neurological illnesses. To contribute to the relative lack of literature within the field of DMT for clinical mental health disorders, using a narrative synthesis, we review the scope of recent, controlled studies of DMT in samples with different psychiatric disorders including depression, schizophrenia, autism, and somatoform disorder. A systematic search of electronic databases (PubMed, Science Direct, World of Science, and was conducted to identify studies examining the effects of DMT in psychiatric populations. 15 studies were eligible for inclusion. After reviewing the principal results of the studies, we highlight strengths and weaknesses of this treatment approach and examine the potential efficacy of using bodily movements as a tool to reduce symptoms. We conclude by placing DMT within the context of contemporary cognitive neuroscience research, drawing out implications of such an orientation for future research, and discussing potential mechanisms by which DMT might reduce psychiatric symptoms. DMT has clear potential as a treatment for a range of conditions and symptoms and thus further research on its utility is warranted.