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Dance and dementia

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Topics: 
approaches to dementia care, arts and theatre, exercise, music and dance

Dance Movement Psychotherapy was first founded by Marian Chace in the 1920s and is widely used within schools, the health sector, various charities and organisations. This type of therapy is catered for all ages from infancy to the elderly.

Dance Movement Psychotherapy is the use of therapeutic movement and dance in which an individual or a group of people can engage creatively to helped further their emotional, social and physical integration. 

Not only does Dance Movement Psychotherapy exercise and awaken the body but it also awakens an individual’s thought process through the exploration of movement. For a dementia patient a certain movement or expression can trigger a memory or image which leads the individual into a reminiscence stage, allowing them to communicate this across when engaging within Dance Movement Psychotherapy.

Since 2014 I began my journey as a Dance Movement Psychotherapist and have had opportunities to offer this type of therapy to individuals living with dementia. I created and developed a programme called “Dance for Dementia” within the NHS which allows dementia patients to freely explore expressive movement and imagery within the space, or for those with limited mobility are able to engage when moving in a chair.

I have worked closely with an individual who struggled to verbally  communicate. However, when I introduced movement into our one- to-ones I discovered that this individual enjoyed knitting and repeatedly introduced this movement into our sessions. Bearing this mind, I mirrored this patient’s movement so this individual could see that I was supporting and guiding the patient’s movement into an improvised dance.

Here, a transferential relationship was developed between both therapist and patient which helped this individual to reminisce and gain bodily awareness when communicating this movement across to others.

Dance Movement Psychotherapy as a practice is continuing to develop within the aforementioned areas and the potential for it to expand into other sectors,  and for its implementation to benefit an ever growing array of patients is an exciting prospect.   

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