Towards a neurocognitive approach to Dance Movement Therapy for mental health: A systematic review

Millman, L.S.M.; Terhune, Devin Blair; Hunter, Elaine and Orgs, Guido. 2021. Towards a neurocognitive approach to Dance Movement Therapy for mental health: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 28(1), pp. 24-38. ISSN 1063-3995 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) has become an increasingly recognized and used treatment, though primarily used to target psychological and physical wellbeing in individuals with physical, medical, or neurological illnesses. To contribute to the relative lack of literature within the field of DMT for clinical mental health disorders, using a narrative synthesis, we review the scope of recent, controlled studies of DMT in samples with different psychiatric disorders including depression, schizophrenia, autism, and somatoform disorder. A systematic search of electronic databases (PubMed, Science Direct, World of Science, and was conducted to identify studies examining the effects of DMT in psychiatric populations. 15 studies were eligible for inclusion. After reviewing the principal results of the studies, we highlight strengths and weaknesses of this treatment approach and examine the potential efficacy of using bodily movements as a tool to reduce symptoms. We conclude by placing DMT within the context of contemporary cognitive neuroscience research, drawing out implications of such an orientation for future research, and discussing potential mechanisms by which DMT might reduce psychiatric symptoms. DMT has clear potential as a treatment for a range of conditions and symptoms and thus further research on its utility is warranted.

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This research is supported by a Departmental PhD Bursary held by L.S. Merritt Millman within the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. The Department of Psychology had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

"This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Towards a neurocognitive approach to Dance Movement Therapy for mental health: A systematic review, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions."


dance movement therapy, clinical mental health, psychiatric, neurocognitive, interoception, embodiment

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11 June 2020Accepted
8 July 2020Published Online
1 February 2021Published

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17 Jun 2020 09:34

Last Modified:

15 Jun 2021 01:26

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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