Therapeutic Dance for the Healing of Sexual Trauma: A Systematic Review

By Joyce Lee, Janeet Dhauna, Jennifer A. Silvers, Meredith H. Houston, and Elizabeth S. Barnert
2022, Vol. 0(0) 1–22
Originally featured in Trauma, Violence, & Abuse (TVA) Review Journal

SAGE  journals

Therapeutic dance has been increasingly used as a treatment modality for sexual trauma, yet its evidence-based efficacy has not
yet been catalogued. We therefore conducted a systematic review to summarize the existing evidence for therapeutic dance as
an intervention for healing after sexual trauma. We searched 5 major databases to identify intervention studies on the use of
therapeutic dance for individuals with histories of sexual trauma. Studies were included based on the following criteria: 1) the
study involves individuals who have been exposed to sexual trauma; 2) the study reports on any form of dance as a therapeutic
intervention; and 3) the study reports on dance intervention outcomes. A total of 1,686 sources were identified. Of these, 11
articles met eligibility criteria and were assessed. Reported outcomes were extracted and organized into emergent domains.
We found that therapeutic dance acts upon three broad domains—affect, self, and interpersonal relationships – and can be
delivered in diverse settings. Across the studies, dance showed benefits on outcomes. However, a significant weakness of the
current peer-reviewed literature is the lack of robust empirical intervention research on dance therapy. Overall, the emerging
literature suggests that therapeutic dance is a potential intervention for those who have experienced sexual trauma. The review
findings presented here can be used to inform practitioners and systems of care targeted for those who have been subject to
sexual trauma.

sexual abuse, child abuse, sexual assault, violence exposure, treatment, post-traumatic stress disorder

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