Research case study

Dr Jill Bunce Programme Leader for MA Dance Movement Psychotherapy and Subject Leader for Dance and Movement Studies

As the leader of MA Dance Movement Psychotherapy, Jill has been furthering our knowledge of the therapeutic impact of dance movement psychotherapy through research over the past ten years.

During 2012 - 13, Jill has been building on her body of work investigating the effects of dance movement psychotherapy on people suffering with Parkinson’s disease.  Working with the Stafford District and the East Midlands branches of Parkinson’s UK, Jill has found that dance movement psychotherapy can be used to alleviate and ‘treat’ some of the physical symptoms of the disease, which can include shaking, slowness of movement and rigidity.

However, sufferers of the disease also suffer from psychological symptoms such as depression, pain, and in some cases, hallucinations.

“The psychological symptoms of Parkinson’s are as destructive as the physical ones,” said Jill.  “We are currently developing a research project in which by working on the body-mind relationship through dance movement psychotherapy, we hope to be able to alleviate some of the psychological symptoms of Parkinson’s as well as the physical ones.”

Jill, along with a student on the Masters in Dance Movement Psychotherapy degree and colleagues at Staffordshire University, currently have papers in press on a second strand of research; the impact of a pilot dance movement psychotherapy intervention on young people’s body awareness and self-esteem.

Following a dance movement psychotherapy session, the young participants gave accounts of the experience in focus groups and interviews. Their accounts were analysed using an inductive thematic analysis and themes were identified.

“We found that the dance movement psychotherapy session impacted positively on these young men and women’s body image, leading them to feel more connected to their bodies, freer and less self-conscious, and more accepting of their bodies after the session. It seemed to be equally effective for both the young men and women,” added Jill.