How dance therapy can benefit mental health patients in Nigeria


What is dance therapy?

Dance therapy is a type of mental health treatment technique that involves the use of coordinated body and physical movements to relieve symptoms of mental health illnesses and improve general well-being.

Dance therapy is also called dance movement therapy or DMT and it goes beyond just regular dance. The goal of this type of mental health therapy is to improve self-expression and upgrade mental health. Dance therapy holds some benefit for a lot of common mental health illnesses we see today, from depression to anxiety disorders.

Benefits of dance therapy in dealing with mental health problems

Legendary American musician, James Brown, once said: “The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing”. Dance was used by tribes in prehistoric times as means of entertainment, expression and interaction among one another. The use of dance as therapy has been studied for decades. Today, dance therapy has become one of the recognized and more-commonly-recommended forms of alternative therapy for sufferers of mental health illnesses.

Dance therapy works on the principle that both the mind, body, and spirit are interconnected and body movements can be used as a form of communication. Dance therapists work with a range of clients from all walks of life to treat some of the harsh symptoms of common mental health conditions. Dance therapy has been found to be an effective tool for the management of mood and anxiety problems. Dance therapy can also be incorporated into a patient’s normal therapy sessions, including patients undergoing online therapy, to provide a more rounded form of treatment. Usually, dance therapists share the same kind of relationship a regular talk therapist share with their clients.

The treatment goal of dance therapy

Globally, dance therapist appear to focus more on these three areas of support:

  • Improve physical mobility
  • Uplift mood
  • Improve social interaction and behaviour

Learning to express one’s self through dance can improve mood and boost confidence needed for effective social interaction with others. Also, like meditation, dance can also be used as a form as “escape” – an effect that is especially beneficial to people suffering from anxiety, depression and mania. Dance therapy is often described as a “holistic” therapy approach because of its benefits in both mental and general wellbeing. While providing relief for symptoms of mental health conditions, dance therapy also improves heart and lung function, and increases muscle strength and endurance. Dance is also commonly used in weight management. It is known that a person burns nearly the same amount of calories by dancing as they would normally do while jogging for the same amount of time.

Finding dance therapists in Nigeria

Luckily, Nigerians are not left out on the benefits of dance therapy for mental and physical well-being. Dance instructors and class holders have existed in Nigeria since the 80s and have gained more recognition over the years. Finding a dance class near you is only a phone browser away for Nigerians these days. However, not all of these classes incorporate dance therapy. You should have your goals clearly set and only go for classes that align with your interests.

Apart from finding relief for mental health conditions, some people attend choreography classes to improve their skills in dance while others subscribe to dance classes to lose weight. However, not all instructors are trained in the use of dance as a therapeutic tool. Your interests will guide you in choosing the perfect dance class or in some cases, your psychotherapist may recommend one for you. Some of the dance therapists work with regular counsellors at the clinics to provide more holistic therapy.

Dance therapy emphasizes self-expression for the improvement of emotional health. Trained therapists use body movement techniques to reach a specific goal with their client. You should discuss with your doctor or regular therapist about the possible benefits of undergoing dance therapy.

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