Most conventional and widely accepted mesothelioma treatments involve the use of drugs. On the other hand, many alternative or complementary cancer treatments are “natural” and shun the use of medicines. These include things like meditation, massage, acupuncture, hypnosis, and yoga. However, there is a smaller group of therapies that fall into the category known as “expressive” methods of treatment. Dance therapy (or movement therapy) belongs in that category.
What is Dance Therapy?
Dance therapy uses movement to allow cancer (and other) patients to express what is going on in their bodies and how they feel about it, all in a non-verbal way. Most dance therapists will note that their goal is to promote the idea that mind and body work together. Therefore, when patients can bring their emotions to the surface through dance, the body will be relieved or experience a lessening of certain problems like stress and pain.
Dance therapy has long been used with individuals who have emotional problems including victims of abuse, those with depression or anxiety, and people who have difficulty verbalizing their issues. It has had limited use with cancer patients and there is no recorded scientific evidence that it can reduce the pain experienced by those with malignant mesothelioma or other forms of the disease though many patients report feeling better after a session.
In a dance therapy session, which can be done privately or in a group, participants are generally encouraged to move their body in a certain way or respond to a certain type of music or prose. Dance therapists can help guide the movement and may encourage those participating in group therapy to interact with one another.
Does Dance Therapy Work?
Dance therapy is not promoted as a cure for mesothelioma disease or as a replacement for any sort of conventional asbestos cancer treatments including chemo, radiation, or mesothelioma surgery. Rather, those who are proponents of the therapy note that it encourages exercise; promotes a better, more positive self-image; promotes self-esteem; encourages a sense of well-being; often makes patients laugh; decreases chronic pain and body tension; and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. All of these are issues with which the cancer patient struggles on a regular basis.
As with all complementary therapies, it is important to note that dance therapy is not a substitute for conventional treatments for cancer including chemo and radiation. In addition, not everyone is a candidate for dance therapy. Some people feel inhibited about dancing and decline to take advantage of this therapy. Others simply are not physically able to participate in such a program. However, if mild weakness is the issue, the exercise provided by dance therapy may help the patient become more physically fit in the long run.
Finding a Dance Therapist
There are individuals who are specifically trained in the subject of dance therapy. These therapists must hold a Masters Degree in their subject and, according to licensing guidelines, should have at least 700 hours of supervised training in order to hold the title of “Dance Therapists Registered”. Additional titles are available with more training. Therefore, those seeking a dance therapist should look for one of more than 1,000 in the U.S. that currently hold the aforementioned designation.
American Dance Therapy Association
American Cancer Society