Supporting the wellbeing of caregivers of children on the autism spectrum: A qualitative report on experiences of attending group dance movement psychotherapy

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Caregivers of children on the autism spectrum can carry a significant amount of practical, psychological, and social demands and responsibilities that are highly stressful. A group Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) was offered to facilitate the wellbeing of caregivers. In this article, we explore the experiences of the therapeutic processes and outcomes of the intervention from the perspectives of caregivers, the therapist, and the researcher/co-facilitator. Method: Four clusters of caregivers of children on the autism spectrum (N = 20 Mean age = 39.25 years) took part in five group DMP sessions lasting 90 minutes delivered across two special educational needs settings. Twenty reflective focus groups took place in total, with each taking place at the end of each DMP session. Participants were invited to capture their experiences through arts-based drawings, while therapist and participating researcher/co-facilitator kept session-based notes and arts-based reflections. These arts-based and verbal data were grouped to generate themes. Results: Six overarching themes emerged from the arts-based and verbal data with multiple subthemes that describe the contribution of DMP towards promoting caregivers’ wellbeing and identified key challenges in implementing the intervention. These themes are: (1) Beholding within and around; (2) Reflecting and reinforcing strengths; (3) Exchanging views; (4) Looking back and carrying forward; (5) Core benefits; and (6) Challenges to engage in DMP. Conclusion: Caregivers talked about their experience of participating in the DMP groups as positive and acknowledged the helpful and challenging aspects of taking part in DMP intervention. They appreciated the creative and expressive nature of the intervention to promote their emotional and social wellbeing. The challenges identified in the study indicate that further awareness is needed within school environments about the contribution arts therapies can make towards establishing appropriate and sustainable interventions for caregivers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0288626
Pages (from-to)e0288626
Number of pages29
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Early online date4 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2023


  • Child
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Dancing
  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Caregivers - psychology
  • Art Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Caregivers/psychology

Research Institutes

  • Health Research Institute

Research Centres

  • Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing


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