Why Dance as Recreational Therapy?

Warriors Beyond War has chosen dance as a non traditional but effective form of recreational therapy to help our wounded warriors combat the rigors of war and trauma both physical, emotional as well as mental. Dance as a form of recreational therapy is a type of therapy that uses as mental. Dance as a form or recreational therapy is a type of therapy that uses movement to help individuals achieve emotional, cognitive, physical dance/movement therapy can be used with all populations and with  individuals, couples,  families, or groups. In general, recreational dance therapy promotes self-awareness, self-esteem, and a safe place for the expression of feelings. Warriors Beyond War provides an outlet for our wounded, ill & injured military veterans, first responders and immediate family members of service members who were killed in action an opportunity to heal and find peace & camaraderie in the midst of a storm with our therapy enriched activities that promote bonding, self-esteem building, a sense of family  and empowers our wounded.                                                                                                                                         

History and Philosophy of Dance Therapy

The relationship between dance, therapy and combat veterans go much deeper than originally thought. Dance as a curative exercise (modernly known as dance movement therapy) was born decades ago when Marian Chace first introduced dance to psychiatric patients at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington, DC in the 1940s. She taught a class called "Dance for Communication" to World War II vets, offering them a way to convey feelings that – especially for psychologically traumatized patients — can be difficult to verbalize. This program not yet as popular as today, was the  first of its kind. Chace eventually helped found the American Dance Therapy Association in 1966. Dance/movement therapy focuses on dancing's psychological benefits and its ability to encourage emotional connections. Today, in addition of using dance as treatment for war torn veterans, dance is used in treatments for everything from eating disorders to autism to depression & more recently Parkinson's disease. 

Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) & Dance

Individuals experiencing PTS, PTSD anxiety and other forms of social challenges may feel as if their social and physical worlds have changed and have become to shrink as their condition progresses, to a point where social isolation becomes a burden. Common symptoms of PTS include an aversion to close contact, avoidance of new activities, new surroundings  and reluctance to meet ne people. One of the amazing benefits of our therapeutic dance programs is that the activity itself promotes social integration and communication that occurs 

both physical and verbal. It's an activity where "breaking the ice" happens within the first few minutes. For some of our wounded heroes being able to take a step into a room filled with people, is on its own a wonderful achievement

Traumatic Brain Ijury (TBI) & Dance

Physically, DMT may help TBI survivors increase their awareness of physical connections within their bodies. Improvements may also be seen in balance, range of motion, and posture. On a cognitive level, DMT may assist in increasing memory, particularly in older adults. Emotionally, improvements may been seen in TBI survivors through increased participation in treatment, sensitivity and emotional expression in group sessions, social interactions, confidence, and frustration tolerance. DMT has the greatest potential 

influence on physical functioning, but physical benefits can influence other areas of functioning.  For instance, increased range of movement may lead to increased sense of mastery on everyday tasks resulting in increased confidence.  Music and dance help harmonize essential tools affected by TBI such as balance, coordination, memory and is a major contributing factor in combating depression as dance encourages social interaction, communication and freedom of expression. 

Depression & Dance

Dance therapy is grounded in the understanding that motion and emotions are tightly linked. For example, if someone is experiencing high levels of sadness, their movement will be reflective of this — it will be slowed and smooth or nonexistent at all. If someone is very excited, their movement will be upbeat and fast paced. Motion can affect mood as well; this will be experienced when someone reports that completing a high energy dance improved their mood. Dance is an expressive art, which means the movement of their body helps people express how they think and feel. People may not fully understand how they feel; others may not have the ability to put their feelings to

words. Dance/movement therapy allows these people the forum to communicate more clearly and accurately through dance than they can with words. Recreational DMT has been helpful in treating people with depressions because it aids in improving a number of facets like:

  • Self-esteem

  • Self-image

  • Communication skills

  • Mood

  • Optimism

  • Aggression

  • Memory

Many veterans experiencing social integration challenges report feeling lonely and social awkward because of their symptoms therefore begin to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable while in public or crowded areas causing further social isolation. In addition to the physical benefits that our therapeutic dance programs may provide, the activity also provides a safe and supporting environment in which to overcome physical and emotional limitations while once again finding pleasure in an activity. Our recreational dance therapy helps our wounded regain their self-confidence in their appearance and feeling as dancing works on posture, gait, balance, elegance, command, control and much more. We provide a 6 week dance therapy program of which during this time we witness these and many other improvements take place from class to class.

Saving our Heroes one dance step at a time

Our programs help empower our veterans through similar tools taught to us while in the military service such as teamwork, sense of pride and purpose, courage, inner strength, commitment and honor. We also help re-introduce social tools and skills necessary to re integrate successfully a civilian life.  Although our programs may not be the end all solution, it helps get our veterans back on their feet by introducing activities that provide motivation, camaraderie, social integration and confidence which are essential tools in the fight against veteran suicides. 

If you would like to help and be part of the solution to reduce the 22 veteran per day suicide rate, or to simply help enrich the lives of our wounded veterans, you can volunteer your time, skill or profession to Warriors Beyond War or you can help by providing a donation to allow us to continue our programs and reach as many veterans in need as possible.