Dance/movement therapy is a complementary modality that is being explored for symptom control and for improving the quality of life of patients with cancer, especially pediatric patients. Self-expression as well as the creative and interpersonal aspects of dance/movement therapy can help patients get in touch with their innermost feelings, which can empower and support adaptation and symptom management
DANCE/MOVEMENT therapy, known as dance movement psychotherapy in Europe, is a synergy between psychotherapy and the self-expressive, communicative elements of dance, creating a body-mind emotional connection to enable participants to share feelings that may be difficult to express with words. It is defined by the American Dance Therapy Association as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.”
Dance/movement therapy in a medical setting provides psychosocial support during conventional and standard medical treatments.
Although dance is in the title of the modality and may be incorporated into the session, dance/ movement therapy encompasses a wide variety of activities, including movement, guided visualization, mindfulness, as well as body and breath awareness, creating an emotionally inviting milieu to support self-expression. Sessions are conducted individually or in groups (and can include family and friends) and may incorporate both movement and verbal expression.
Providing emotional outlets during cancer treatment is especially important, for cancer is a complex illness. It takes a profound toll on patients and on all those close to patients, causing emotional reactions that can be extreme and not easily expressed verbally.
The goals of dance/movement therapy in cancer care include improving quality of life, physical and cognitive fatigue, and pain management; enhancing self-expression related to unresolved grief, anxiety, fear, depression, and feelings of isolation; enhancing self-esteem; and strengthening patients’ connection to personal resources through imagery and metaphors.
THE MULTIDIMENSIONAL, self-expressive, creative, and interpersonal aspects of dance enable patients with cancer to get in touch with personal feelings, building a sense of self-efficacy that empowers them as well as supporting adaptation and symptom management.4 “Dance therapy offers a more diversified and less monotonous approach compared to conventional fitness programs. Dance therapy focuses more intensely on the entity of body and soul, supporting coordination, creativity and activation of resources such as emotional stability in addition to building and maintaining a social network that enables mutually beneficial experiences that might evolve into a support group.”
CLINICAL RESEARCH involving dance/movement therapy is limited. In the only study in pediatric cases involving 16 children with a brain tumor receiving chemotherapy, individual creative arts therapy sessions using dance/movement, music, and art therapies were compared with receiving attention from a volunteer. Improvements were found in parents’ report of their pain (P = .03) and nausea (P = .0061), along with improved mood (P < .01), excitement (P < .05), feeling happy (P < .02), and less nervous (P < .02).8
Dance/movement therapy was also evaluated in the breast cancer population. In a randomized study of 139 patients undergoing radiotherapy, dance/ movement therapy (six 1.5-hour group sessions, twice a week for 3 weeks) was reported to significantly affect perceived stress, pain severity, and pain interference (P < 0.05) when compared with the control group.10 In a follow-up study with 104 patients, those who received dance/movement therapy during radiotherapy benefited more than patients who received it 1 to 2 months after completing treatment. Patients reported improved coping with cancer symptoms and treatment; improved well-being and appreciation of self and body; total functioning; bridging back to a normal life; and participating in a shared positive experience.
Pediatric dance/movement therapy is a highly requested modality used for pain management, psychosocial and family support, as well as palliative and end-of-life care.
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Source ASCO post