Graceful Living

Parkinson’s and Dance Movement Psychotherapy

Karen Woodley


Dance movement therapy is a very suitable and effective approach to reaching those who have Parkinson’s disease. Grace and enchantment can be cultivated and moved in ways that would otherwise not be accessible. Just this alone has the potential for adding sweet joy to the person’s world thus improving their QUALITY of life and wellbeing. Working with the aim of improving the wellbeing for those with Parkinson’s through movement psychotherapy is very important as addressing the psychological aspects and ways of adjusting to the diseases effects will have a big impact on the QOL too.

Grace and Enchantment belong to a group of movements related to the emotional content of the person as oppose to the purely corporal disciplines that do not possess emotional resonance in the person. Integrated movement for a Parkinson sufferer is very possible. It is the subtlety and the fluidity; the lightness that can lead to a deep expression of intense harmony and interior connection.


Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the person’s mobility and health related quality of life. Tremors, postural instability, bradykinesia and impaired gait all lead to the person losing their independence and will to go on. They typically have to contend with a loss of physical ability and cognitive abilities, which lead them to have many problems in the world. Depression and anxiety are very common in these clients and this is because the neurotransmitters system of dopamine and serotonin are lessened.

Dance Movement Psychotherapy uses a myriad of creative activities that includes Mindful movement, Music, Imagery, Art etc. I personally place emphasis on the quality of the music used as it has the ability to be the pathway from one movement to another thus letting the brain know that this movement pattern is possible and creating new imprints if you like. Other dance movement psychotherapists oftentimes work without music but, for me, through my experience, Music is part of the medicine!


Through working with the vital impetus and establishing a rhythmic, melodic and harmonious encounter, the person with Parkinson’s is given a chance to recover those lost connections that are caused by not having enough dopamine. Each time a motor movement is made with meaning i.e. associated and felt as opposed to dissociated and simply done as a mechanical exercise and at the same time followed by an increase in dopamine activity in the brain it paves the way for a similar future response.

Dopamine is a very important neurotransmitter linked to feelings of pleasure, feelings of love and attachment; linked to altruism and to the integration of our thoughts with our feelings.

Through dance movement psychotherapy it is possible to reactivate these positive emotions through movement and activities linked with the therapist and the group. If our experience is that of no pleasure in life, lack of love and connection; lack of care for others and dissociation then perhaps through movements that address some of these existential expressions we can change our experience.

Tango Therapy

Simply put:

Why Dance for Parkinson’s (

  1. Because it develops flexibility and confidence
  2. Because it connects the mind and the body
  3. Because it breaks isolation
  4. Because it awakens the graceful movements
  5. Because it uses all the senses which help with balance
  6. Because it develops proprioceptive awareness
  7. Because it sparks each person’s creativity
  8. Because it tells each person’s story
  9. Because the basis of dance is rhythm
  10. And the essence of dance is joy!

I love these simple steps!


To add to these benefits of dance for Parkinson’s I have added ten points for why movement psychotherapy for Parkinson’s:

  1. Because it connects and integrates the mind, body and spirit
  2. Because the inner affection can emerge and help the motor movement continue
  3. Because it is social and allows you to share in safety
  4. Because it can re-establish the lost homeostasis of the body
  5. Because it uses all the senses that help with balance!
  6. Because it sparks and helps develop each person’s creative urges
  7. Because it works with the care system
  8. Because its focus is on the body expression
  9. Because it liberates one from the inner prison
  10. In addition, its essence is finding joy again!


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