Movement/dance therapy emerged in the early 1900s by retired professional dancer Marian Chace. Upon beginning her career as a dance teacher in 1930, Marian became very interested in the messages being emoted through her student’s while they were dancing. She began focusing her classes less on the physical steps and technicality of the dance, and more about the process of self-expression. Without the burden of words, students were able to experience a more organic movement and felt a greater sense of well-being.

Doctors soon became interested in the work that Chace was doing with her students and began sending some of their psychiatric patients to her. Dance and movement therapy took off with the blossoming of the American Dance Therapy Association in 1966 and has become a helpful tool for therapists looking for a breakthrough, when used in collaboration with traditional talk-therapy methods.

The basic premise of  movement and dance therapy incorporates body awareness, expression and acceptance in order to integrate the mind, body and spirit. For many clients, especially those with eating disorders, communication between the mind and body has either been ignored or misinterpreted by the eating disorder voice that has for so long, dictated any bodily movement.

Body tells mind that it is hungry and in need of nourishment; ED says no.

Body tells mind that it is too tired; ED says keep going.

Eating disorders are largely about control, and movement/dance therapy offers the opportunity for patients to let go of ED’s judgments in order to free up the body to move naturally.

Movement/dance therapist, Keli Laverty at EDCD attributes the common disconnect between patient’s minds and bodies to our culture’s inability to differentiate between our bodies as objects, and our bodies as beings. “In our culture, young girls and women are continuously taught the message that their body is an object, something separate from themselves, to be symbolically displayed.” This messaging makes our younger generation think that their bodies are something to be judged and controlled—and that is a perfect notion for ED to latch onto.

At Walden, Director of Expressive Therapies, Terri Eaton and her staff of expressive therapists use the following variety of movement/dance therapies:

  • Stress Management, Relation and Guided Imagery
  • Integrated Movement, Yoga and Tai Chi
  • Creative Movement, Dance and Creative Exploration

“These activities, aim to integrate the split-off parts of self, help our patients to trust in their bodies, become more aware of bodily sensations, help them to feel more comfortable with their true selves and be proud to express this more integrated self to others,” said Eaton.

Ultimately, in working with a trained expressive therapist, eating disordered patients can establish a greater sense of connectivity between all the parts of self; this connection of mind and body enhances one’s ability “to nurture, express, and to practice self-care in all areas of difficulty” (Kelly Laverty, EDCD).