Treating Anxiety with Dance and Movement

Anxiety is a form of stress that can be experienced in ways such as physically, emotionally, and in the way people view the world around them. Anxiety mostly relates to worry about what might happen such as worrying about things going wrong or feeling as if you are in danger.When the body and mind react, we can feel physical sensations, like dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and sweaty or shaky hands and feet. These sensations are called the fight–flight response. This response is caused by a rush of adrenaline and other stress hormones that prepare the body to make a “flight” from danger.

My Capstone Project will involve researching movement and dance therapy techniques that help with generalized anxiety disorder. I will be mentoring a young girl suffering from this disorder while applying techniques learned through research. I will also keep a journal of what was and wasn’t successful for this child and her anxiety. I will deliver this project in separate components. First is a paper on my research of both anxiety, and dance/movement therapy used for generalized anxiety disorder. Second will be a total of 14 hours of mentoring a young student with anxiety. The mentoring aspect of my project is also going to be used for my independent study. My independent study consists of me helping my former Social Work professor, David Lynch, co-create a class titled; Empowering Youth Through Movement. The point of the mentoring is so that I can test out certain movement exercises we found to be beneficial of the course with my men-tee , that way future students can use these methods while teaching dance/movement workshops to young children for their final. The mentoring aspect for my Capstone is a much larger portion of my time spent with my men-tee. For confidentiality purposes I will use the name Hayley to refer to my men-tee. Hayley is extremely shy and struggles with enjoying anything in life due to her extreme anxiety. I have been researching my own movements, and dance styles that will help decrease her anxiety symptoms and help her find her comfort zone around strangers. The third component will consist of a journal that I will record in before, during, and after my mentoring session. Lastly a the end of the 14 hours I will have the young girl fill out an easy to understand evaluation form for our sessions.

I will be connecting this project to the Common Ground Theory. It is stated in our Interdisciplinary book that, “ people cannot rely on just any information they have about each other. The must establish just the right piece of common ground, and that depends on them finding a shared basis for that piece. Accordingly two people’s common ground is, in effect, the sum of their mutual, common, or joint knowledge, beliefs, and suppositions.” This theory is completely relevant to my project because both Hayley and myself need one another to meet at a common ground for us both to be successful. She is trusting in me to help her with her anxiety issues, where I am trusting in her to let me know if my teaching and theories are relieving her anxiety.

I will be drawing from the disciplines of Social Work, Psychology, and dance. Psychology research will allow me to gain a more in depth understanding of anxiety; how does it effect the body, or one’s daily life? Social Work research and practice will help me understand how to fully communicate with Hayley, while being patient, understanding, sympathetic, and uplifting. It will also help with my communication between her parents and I. The dance discipline will allow me to understand movement and dance styles that I will be using as a form of therapy in each session.

The timeline for my project will consists of a weekly meeting with my men-tee till the end of the year with an over all goal of 14 hours of meeting times. I have already began mentoring on Thursday, March 3 at 7:00pm. My research paper draft will be due in class on Tuesday, May 3. My final research paper, weekly journal, and evaluation sheets will be due Tuesday, May 10.



2 thoughts on “Treating Anxiety With Dance and Movement

  1. I think you need a more detailed timeline to make sure you are getting the components of the project done. Also, make sure you talk with Hayley and her guardian(s) so they are aware of the goals of the project, so you can ensure you have informed consent… The research component will be HUGELY important here, to make sure that you are making evidence-based decisions as you craft the program, and you will want to tie your techniques to specific research from the fields you study to demonstrate that you (as an undergrad) are relying on people with solid experience as you work to make a difference in this girl’s life.


  2. This sounds like a great idea! Not only will you be helping a young girl and making a difference in her life, but you may be also helping forge new studies and inspire more people to use dance as a mode of therapy and an outlet for stress. Movement of the human body is so helpful and beneficial in so many ways! I look forward to seeing how this all works out!


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