Dancing Through Dementia: Benefits of Dance/Movement Therapy

In regard to individuals with dementia, dance/movement therapy provides not only physical, but psychosocial benefits as well. In fact, it is the psychosocial aspect that frequently becomes the top priority, especially when working with an illness as complicated as dementia. Too often we see individuals become isolated due to the effects of the dementia.

Common Symtoms and the Dance/Movement Therapy Solution

Difficulty with communication, changes in personality, and challenging behaviors are just a few effects that may cause an individual with dementia to withdraw socially, shut down emotionally, and become isolated. Friends, family, and professionals often have a hard time coping with these changes as well and may unknowingly and inadvertently contribute to an individual’s isolation. So, what can be done? Enter dance/movement therapy. Dance/movement therapy has the ability to connect an individual to the world around them in ways that traditional forms of therapy cannot. Through the use of rhythm, sound, and movement, individuals begin to reconnect in ways previously unimaginable.

Psychosocial Benefits of Dance/Movement Therapy

• Increase self-awareness • Encourage social interaction • Manage and/or reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety • Channel agitation and aggression into healthy modes of expression • Provide opportunities for safe and dignified expression • Create alternative approaches to communication • Maintain and, at times, improve memory and cognitive functioning • Strengthen neurological pathways
These are only a few examples of the benefits of dance/movement therapy. Of course, there are always physical benefits of movement. For more information on how these benefits are attained please read my previous blog post Dancing through Dementia: Basic Techniques and for more general information on dance/movement therapy please read Dancing through Dementia: What is Dance/Movement Therapy?

Which form of therapy works best?

It is important to note that dance/movement therapy won’t be everything to everyone. Certain people respond to certain forms of therapy and that is why it is important to consider different methods and techniques when working with individuals with dementia. Dance/movement therapy is not the only form of alternative and creative arts therapies that can provide stimulation and meaningful engagement to individuals with dementia. For more information on these alternative therapies please read fellow Chicago Bridge writer Christy Shoenwald’s blog article about Art therapy. Also check out the America Music Therapy Association and National Association for Drama Therapy. This is the third installment of the six-part series, Dancing Through Dementia. To read more about dance/movement therapy please stay tuned for clinical examples and case studies.   Thank you to Kristen Pavle for editing this article and thank you to jvandoor for the use the photo.  


  • Nicole Batsch

    Really nice series of articles! All the art related ones, actually. Nice job, Chicago Bridge bloggers. By the way, is it possible to have the links provided click open to a new window versus taking you away from the main article. That would be really helpful. I know how to do it manually, but sometimes forget. Looking forward to reading future articles.

  • Lois Devine Finneran

    Erica, what you do is full of wonder. How nice to find out that you went to Illini and are doing so well in your chosen career. What you do seems to be a necessary part of aging and aging well. Susan and Richard must be so proud of you. You were a lovely young girl so sweet and I know my daughter, Heather, adored you. So happy you are doing something so worthwhile.


    Lois Devine Finneran

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