Dance Movement Therapy in Eating Disorder Treatment

Ladies doing Dance Movement Therapy in Eating Disorder TreatmentAddictions and disorders do not affect just one aspect of an individual – they profoundly and negatively impact the brain as well as the body. Therefore, the most effective treatment approach involves therapeutic integration, meaning not just one type of therapy is used in the healing process, but many, and Dance Movement Therapy in Eating Disorder Treatment is one of them.

Talk therapy, which is an essential component of any treatment, deals with a woman’s mind:

  • Her thoughts
  • Background
  • Experiences
  • Emotions

Expressive therapies also address feelings and emotions, but do so through the avenue of her body.

What Is Dance Movement Therapy in Eating Disorder Treatment?

Dance movement therapy (DMT) is the psycho-therapeutic use of movement as a process that furthers the emotional, cognitive, social and physical integration of the individual. In other words, DMT uses therapeutic movement to improve the mental and physical well-being of the person.

DMT recognizes that the brain and body are inextricably connected. Whereas the brain may identify and label an emotion, the sensation of this emotion resides in the body.

Consider stress, something everyone is familiar with, as an example: you are late again to work, there’s too much traffic, and you could lose your job. The stress and anxious thoughts start in your mind, but you feel it in your body:

  • Heart racing
  • Sweaty palms
  • Rapid breathing

Your brain and body are clearly connected.

DMT is conducted in supportive, non-judgmental groups. This allows women to freely express themselves, enjoy the strength and versatility of their own bodies and encourage one another. At the onset of therapy, women often feel anxious, self-conscious, shut down; the entire experience is foreign and can prove daunting.

Discovering Hope Through Dance

In time, many experience the liberation to be found in movement as they grow in awareness and interpersonal interaction. Perhaps most significant, they discover hope. The future can actually contain exciting experiences, laughter, positive moments and joy. For women who have been controlled by a disease or addiction and have not felt happy for a very long time, this is a life-changing revelation.

Eating disordered women in particular often hate their bodies, viewing them as the enemy, something they need to control. Dance Movement Therapy strives to move women from a state of self-image to self-perception; in essence, to shift their focus from the external to the internal. Self-image is predicated on what is seen in the mirror; with these women, it is rarely positive.

Improving Self-Perception

Conversely, self-perception is how they feel in their bodies. Women are encouraged to notice how incredible their bodies are:

  • Strong
  • Flexible
  • Resilient
  • Strikingly graceful

Their bodies can even express the most intense emotion, without using a single word.

Dance Movement Therapy in Eating Disorder Treatment is designed to reestablish a connection between a woman’s mind and body. This expressive therapy, in conjunction with other treatment modalities such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and the 12 step program, offer women the best possible chance for complete and lasting recovery.

Blog Post Contributed by Kim Rothwell BC-DMT, LCPC, CADC, Dance Movement Therapist, Timberline Knolls

*image courtesy of samarttiw at

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on June 11, 2014.
Reviewed & Approved on February 4, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

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