Depression and “the joy dance”

The joy dance: Specific effects of a single dance intervention on psychiatric patients with depression. Sabine C. Koch, Katharina Morlinghaus, Thomas Fuchs. (2007). The Arts in Psychotherapy Volume 34, Issue 4, Pages 340–349.

Abstract: “This study investigated the specific effects of a dance intervention on the decrease of depression and the increase of vitality and positive affect in 31 psychiatric patients with main or additional diagnosis of depression. Patients participated in one of three conditions: a dance group performing a traditional upbeat circle dance, a group that listened just to the music of the dance (music only), and a group that moved on a home trainer bike (ergometer) up to the same level of arousal as the dance group (movement only). While all three conditions alleviated or stabilized the condition of the patients, results suggest that patients in the dance group profited most from the intervention. They showed significantly less depression than participants in the music group (p < .001) and in the ergometer group (p < .05), and more vitality (p < .05) than participants in the music group on post-test self-report scales immediately after the intervention. Stimulating circle dances can thus have a positive effect on patients with depression and may be recommended for use in dance/movement therapy and other complementary therapies.”


Review of dance therapy for schizophrenia

Dance therapy for schizophrenia. 2013. Juanjuan Ren, Jun Xia. Editorial Group: Cochrane Schizophrenia Group. Published Online: 4 OCT 2013; Assessed as up-to-date: 10 JUL 2012.


Plain Language Summary written by Ben Gray:

“The first line of treatment of schizophrenia is usually antipsychotic drugs. Usually, these drugs are more effective in treating the ‘positive symptoms’ than ‘negative symptoms’ of schizophrenia. Moreover, antipsychotic drugs have debilitating side-effects such as weight gain, shaking, tremors and muscle stiffness.

“Dance therapy (also known as dance movement therapy, DMT) uses movement and dance to explore a person’s emotions in a non-verbal way (without language or words). The therapist helps the individual to interpret their dance and movement and link them with people’s personal feelings. Dance has been used as a healing ritual since earliest human history, but the establishment of dance therapy as a profession is quite recent. Dance therapy can be used with people of all ages, races and genders. It can be effective in the treatment of people with medical, social, developmental, physical and psychological impairments. The review included one study with 45 participants. The aim was to compare dance therapy with standard care or other interventions. The one included study compared dance therapy plus routine care with routine care alone. In the main, there was no difference between those who engaged in dance therapy versus those who did not (for outcomes such as satisfaction with care, mental state, leaving the study early, quality of life). However, those who engaged in dance therapy showed significant improvement in negative symptoms. 

“Overall, because of the small number of participants, the findings are limited. There is little evidence to support or refute the use of dance therapy. Larger studies and trials are needed that focus on important outcomes (such as rates of relapse, quality of life, admission to hospital, leaving the study early, cost of care and satisfaction with treatment). Further research would help clarify whether dance therapy is an effective and holistic treatment for people with schizophrenia, especially in terms of helping people cope with negative symptoms that do not respond so well to antipsychotic drugs.

“This summary was written by a consumer Ben Gray (Benjamin Gray, Service User and Service User Expert Rethink Mental Illness,”