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The Benefits of Dance Therapy for Teens with Mental Illness

By October 9, 2023October 14th, 2023Therapy

Mental illness is an umbrella term that encompasses distinct diagnosable mental health ailments, disorders, diseases, and conditions, that involve changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Data presented from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that an estimated 49.5% of adolescents aged 13-18 in America had AMI (any mental illness). Of the nearly fifty percent of adolescents with AMI, approximately 22.2% had severe impairment. There is no universal treatment that proves successful for everyone, as everyone has nuanced needs when it comes to the mental health recovery process. To provide a teenager with the highest potential for successful, long-term outcome, a customized treatment plan that considers all treatment options and incorporates those that are expressly geared to each teenager’s distinct needs is required.

Dance Therapy 

Dance therapy, also known as dance/ movement therapy (DMT), emerged in the 1940s as early innovators, began to realize the benefit of using dance and movement as a form of psychotherapy. This form of therapy relies on movement as the primary tool to address clinical goals. Dance/ movement therapists rely on various methods during sessions, such as creative and expressive dance and movement, role-playing, gross and perceptual motor activities, and a blend of improvised and structured movement experiences, to introduce and nurture its healing elements (e.g., rhythm, synchrony, vitalization, integration, cohesion, and symbolism). The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) explains that dance/ movement therapy relies on the following premises:

  • Movement is a language that begins in utero and this nonverbal communication continues throughout the lifespan.
  • Mind, body, and spirit are interconnected.
  • Movement can be functional, communicative, developmental, and expressive.
  • Movement is both an assessment tool and a primary mode of intervention.

It aims to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the teen, for the purpose of improving health and well-being. Further, empirical evidence suggests that dance/ movement therapy may be an advantageous approach to strengthening aspects of the self, particularly in adolescents.

Benefits Of DMT

Dance is an embodied activity and, when applied therapeutically, is known to yield an array of benefits for teenagers with mental illness:

  • A randomized pilot study, for example, concluded that the utilization of grounding techniques (focusing on stability and balance), which are integral to DMT, increases awareness of physical abilities, strengthens sensory perception and the sense of security, enhances sensory awareness, and contributes to mental relaxation.
  • Findings from other studies further indicate that dance/ movement therapy techniques can improve body awareness, somatic sensations, and mental experiences. DMT allows teenagers to use movement to express a wide range of emotions.
  • A systematic review investigating the effects of dance interventions on aspects of the self (e.g., self-concept/ self-esteem) found that dance therapy produced notable benefits in children and adolescents, such as enhanced body-related perceptions, greater self-trust, and improved self-esteem.

Dance therapy can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive treatment plan for teens with mental illness, offering them a unique and holistic approach to healing and recovery.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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