Effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy in the Treatment of Adults with Depression: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses

Vicky Karkou, Supritha Aithal, Ania Zubala, Bonnie Meekums

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Depression is the largest cause of mental ill health worldwide. Although interventions such as Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) may offer interesting and acceptable treatment options, current clinical guidelines do not include these interventions in their recommendations mainly because of what is perceived as insufficient research evidence. The 2015 Cochrane review on DMT for depression includes only three studies leading to inconclusive results. In a small and underfunded field such as DMT, expensive multi-centred Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) are as yet rare. It is therefore, necessary to not only capture evidence from RCTs, but to also look beyond such designs in order to identify and assess the range of current evidence. Methods: We therefore, conducted a systematic review of studies that aimed to explore the effectiveness in the use of DMT with people with depression. This led to a qualitative narrative synthesis. We also performed meta-analyses that calculated the effect size for all included studies, studies with RCT designs only, followed by a subgroup analysis and a sensitivity analysis. In all meta-analyses a random effects model was used with Standardised Mean Differences (SMD) to accommodate for the heterogeneity of studies and outcome measures. Results: From the 817 studies reviewed, eight studies were identified as meeting our inclusion criteria. 351 people with depression (mild to severe) participated, 192 of whom attended DMT groups while receiving treatment as usual (TAU) and 159 received TAU only. Qualitative findings suggest there was a decrease in depression scores in favour of DMT groups in all studies. Subgroup analysis performed on depression scores before and three months after the completion of DMT groups suggested changes in favour of the DMT groups. When sensitivity analysis was performed, RCTs at high risk of bias were excluded, leaving only studies with adult clients up to the age of 65. In these studies, the highest effect size was found favouring DMT plus TAU for adults with depression, when compared to TAU only. Conclusions: Based on studies with moderate to high quality, we concluded that DMT is an effective intervention in the treatment of depression with adults. Furthermore, by drawing on a wide range of designs with diverse quality, we were able to compile a comprehensive picture of relevant trends relating to the use of DMT in the treatment of depression. Despite the fact that there remains a paucity of high-quality studies, the results have relevance to both policy-making and clinical practice, and become a platform for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAPR
Early online date3 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2019


  • Dance movement therapy
  • depression
  • effectiveness
  • systematic review
  • meta-analyis

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy in the Treatment of Adults with Depression: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Profiles

    No photo of Vicky Karkou

    Professor Vicky Karkou

    Person: Academic

    Cite this