In 2017, the Stress, Trauma and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC) based in Detroit, Michigan, began examining movement therapies to help address mental trauma among refugee families. The researchers learned that body movement does not only provide a way to express oneself, but also provide healing and lifelong strategies for managing one’s stress.
Lana Ruvolo Grasser, a neuroscientist, specialized in understanding how trauma reshapes the nervous system of children of refugee families, said that the instinct to move the body to express oneself is as old as humanity. But in mental health treatment circles, movement-based strategies, including dance therapy, have only recently been given much attention.
Body movement therapies are known to have many benefits on overall health. It reduces stress, lowers inflammation in the body and promotes a healthy brain. Researchers stated that stress and trauma live in the body and most of our daily communication is non-verbal and one’s traumatic memories are stored in nonverbal parts of his/her brain so with the help of guided practices and movement one can release emotions and help them move ahead.
According to the research, dance and body movement therapy sessions encourage creativity and adaptability that helps develop self-regulation, higher cognitive flexibility, and self-direction. The research revealed that dance and other movement therapies are important for early-life experiences as early age children usually learn to deal with stress which can have a lasting impact on their mental health into adulthood.
Researchers from Grasser’s team also found that dance and movement therapy benefits, to a great extent, in reducing and controlling symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety in children and adults who resettle as refugees in other countries.