How Creative Arts Therapy and Dance Movement Therapy differ from Dance and Art Classes
Updated: Jul 30
In the pursuit of enhanced mental well-being, people have turned to various artistic practices such as art and dance classes, as well as the specialised field of creative arts therapy. While all avenues offer a means for self-expression and personal growth, it is essential to recognise the distinctive features that set creative arts therapy apart from the therapeutic benefits derived from participating in standalone art or dance classes. In this blog post, we will explore these distinctions, examining how each pathway contributes to nurturing mental well-being.
Creative Arts Therapy: A Guided Therapeutic Process
Creative arts therapy is a structured and guided therapeutic process facilitated by trained and licensed therapists who integrate multiple art forms, including visual arts and dance. The primary objective is to address emotional, psychological, and cognitive challenges through creative expression (Kaimal et al., 2017). The presence of a therapist is pivotal in providing personalised guidance, helping individuals explore and process their emotions, and supporting their journey of self-discovery and healing.
Therapeutic Benefits from Art Classes
Art classes offer individuals the opportunity to engage in artistic activities, such as drawing, painting, or sculpting, in a group setting. While not therapy sessions in the traditional sense, art classes can provide therapeutic benefits. They offer a space for creative expression, relaxation, and stress reduction (Malchiodi, 2013). Participants in art classes may experience a sense of achievement, improved self-esteem, and increased self-awareness as they explore their creativity and hone their artistic skills.
Distinctive Aspects of Creative Arts Therapy
The distinctive aspect of creative arts therapy lies in its formal therapeutic structure and integration of various art forms, combined with the guidance of licensed therapists. Unlike standalone art or dance classes, creative arts therapy delves deeper into the therapeutic process, addressing specific mental health challenges. The therapist tailors sessions to individual needs, helping clients connect with their emotions, work through trauma, and foster personal growth using a range of artistic modalities.
Therapeutic Benefits from Dance Classes
Dance classes, much like art classes, offer an opportunity for therapeutic benefits, especially in relation to movement, balance, fitness, coordination, learning dance steps and social engagement. Dance classes can be emotionally uplifting, fostering joy, and promoting a sense of connection with oneself and others in a supportive group setting.
Distinctive Aspects of Dance Movement Therapy
One of the distinctive aspects that sets dance movement therapy (DMT) apart from dance classes is its therapeutic focus. Unlike dance classes that emphasise technical skills and artistic performance, DMT centers on using movement as a means for emotional expression, introspection, and healing. It allows individuals to explore their bodies, improve body awareness, and experience emotional release through movement (Meekums, 2002). In DMT sessions, trained dance therapists guide participants through a process of self-discovery, encouraging them to explore their emotions and experiences through spontaneous movement. This therapeutic intent allows individuals to access deeper layers of their psyche and cultivate a greater understanding of themselves, fostering an embodied and holistic approach to mental well-being that extends beyond the boundaries of a traditional dance class.
Inclusivity in Dance Movement Therapy and Creative Arts Therapy
An essential aspect of both dance movement therapy and creative arts therapy is their inherent inclusivity, making them accessible to individuals without prior expertise in dance or art. In dance movement therapy, the focus is not on mastering dance techniques or complex routines; rather, it centers on using movement as a medium for emotional expression and exploration. Trained dance therapists create a safe and supportive environment where individuals of all abilities can engage in movement that feels comfortable to them, allowing their bodies to communicate emotions and experiences without judgment.
Similarly, creative arts therapy does not require participants to possess exceptional artistic skills or prior experience in painting, drawing, music, or other art forms. The therapeutic process revolves around the act of creative expression rather than the final outcome. Creative arts therapists guide individuals through various artistic activities, encouraging them to freely explore different materials and techniques. The emphasis is on using art as a means of communication and self-discovery, empowering individuals to access their innate creativity for personal growth and healing.
In the realm of nurturing mental well-being, creative arts therapy, art classes, and dance classes each offer unique avenues for self-expression and personal growth. Creative arts therapy is a guided and comprehensive therapeutic process that integrates diverse art forms under the guidance of licensed therapists. On the other hand, standalone art and dance classes provide therapeutic benefits through creative expression, body movement, and the joy of shared experiences.
Dance movement therapy and creative arts therapy stand as inclusive and accessible avenues for self-exploration, healing, and personal growth. By transcending the need for prior expertise, both therapeutic approaches enable individuals to embark on transformative journeys using movement and artistic expression as powerful tools for emotional communication and self-discovery. Regardless of their background or abilities in dance or art, individuals can find emotional regulation and empowerment through these expressive modalities and enhance their mental well-being.
Kaimal, G., Ray, K., & Muniz, J. (2017). Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants' Responses Following Art Making. Art Therapy, 34(2), 74-80.
Malchiodi, C. A. (2013). Art Therapy and Health Care. Guilford Press.
Meekums, B. (2002). Dance Movement Therapy: A Creative Psychotherapeutic Approach. Sage Publications.