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Quora: Is Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) effective? Why might someone choose DMT over verbal therapy?

Answer by Asher Taylor:

I don’t think it's an either/or question – both well-executed "talk therapy" and well-executed Dance Movement Therapy lead to changes in the brain (as do all our experiences).   The changes in question are measurable and, modern neuroscience suggests, intrinsic to the healing process.  

Research has demonstrated that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — perhaps the most – effective "talk therapy" in use today —   and antidepressants lead to similar changes in the brain and similar outcomes.  Research has also demonstrated that programs of physical exercise lead to increases in Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is an important factor in neuroplasticity and brain growth.   Neuroplasticity is essential to change in the brain, and it is through changes in the brain that therapeutic measures work over the long term. 

DMT couples  principles from traditional counseling psychology with physical movement, and while research into the neurological impacts of DMT is in its infancy, I'd be very surprised if we find that it doesn't lead to brain changes associated with positive therapeutic outcomes.   In fact, I plan to do my doctoral research into this very question.

At the end of the day, DMT is another tool in the therapeutic tool kit, and it's one that works well for many  patients, though it's under – utilized.  Just as some people respond better to SSRIs and others to tricyclic antidepressants, for some people DMT will be a more effective tool than talk therapy — and I suspect that the combination of both might make for a very powerful therapeutic toolkit, indeed.

I apologize for the lack of peer-reviewed references here.   I'm posting this from my phone.   I'll try to get back and post some article links soon.

Is Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) effective? Why might someone choose DMT over verbal therapy?

Here are a couple of good articles discussing antidepressant medication treatment, BDNF, and so forth. Whenever possible, I’ve included full-text links, but some of these are only accessible as abstracts without paywall access. There are, of course, may more; these represent a select few from a research project I completed last semester.

DeRubeis, Siegle, & Hollon. (2008). Cognitive therapy vs. medications for depression: Treatment outcomes and neural mechanisms. Nature Reviews Neurosience, 9(10), 788-796. doi: 10.1038/nrn2345
Full Text

Mata, J., Thompson, R. J., Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Gotlib, I. H. (2012). Walk on the bright side: Physical activity and affect in major depressive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121(2), 297-308. doi:10.1037/a0023533
Full Text

Wrann, White, Salogiannis, Laznik-Bogoslavski, Wu, Ma, Lin, & Greenberg. (2013). Exercise induces hippocampal BDNF through a PGC-1α/FNDC5 pathway. Cell Metabolism, 18(5), 649-659. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.09.008

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