Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Robyn Cruz

Second Advisor

Sue Motulsky

Third Advisor

Kim Muesser


This dissertation evaluated the appropriateness of using a recovery-oriented dance movement therapy (RODMT) intervention for people who were experiencing severe mental illness. Dance movement therapy (DMT) has been used for decades to support people with psychological and psychiatric symptoms but, before this research, has not been studied in context of the recovery approach to mental health rehabilitation. The theoretical assumption of this study was that movement-based experiential activities could be used as the primary agent to demonstrate and convey specific recovery concepts among participants. The researcher developed a protocol for 13 sessions of group intervention that merged DMT with Illness Management and Recovery Program principles and methods addressing social support, goal development, and stress management. A controlled trial was conducted to compare participants who received RODMT with others who received the typical Illness Management and Recovery program. Of 98 participants who started the interventions, 52 completed them. All were receiving community mental health rehabilitation services in Israel; 80% had a schizophrenia diagnosis; 75% were men; and the mean age was 48 years. Standardized measures assessing recovery were completed pre- and post-intervention. Knowledge questionnaires were administered throughout the study, and five RODMT participants were interviewed before and after the intervention. Although RODMT group participants were significantly older than control group participants, findings showed no between-group differences in measures of recovery outcome. Thematic analysis of interviews revealed three categories: definition of recovery and personal goals, hindrances to recovery, and experiences from RODMT group, from which the 11 themes of coping with frustration, gaps between wanting and doing, interest and enjoyment from experiential activities, awareness and application, group support, and mind–body connection emerged. The group was experienced as enjoyable, supportive, and engaging for the interviewed RODMT participants. They indicated that the group contributed to their awareness and taught them applicable strategies to cope with stress. When adapted to the recovery approach, DMT may have a promising effect on participants’ recovery processes.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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