Domestic violence affects not only the battered victim, but all members of the family. Dance/movement therapy, through its active and metaphorical process, can provide a new therapeutic approach to assist families exposed to domestic violence. This paper provides a case illustration of the use of dance/movement therapy with a family exposed to domestic violence, as the primary therapeutic intervention. It is grounded in theories of attachment, on the primary hypothesis that dance/movement therapy offers not only a way to address the physical and emotional patterns of immobilization but also, as a reparative tool, it assists victims in integrating healthy self-regulatory capacities that have been stunted by trauma experienced through the body. The case illustration highlights how dance/movement therapy provided a direct approach to addressing specific symptoms of abuse that appeared in particular individuals in this family, as well as how “re-choreographing” the family dynamics and relationships dysregulated by the domestic violence was pivotal in helping this family to learn new ways to self-regulate.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ainsworth, M., Blehar, M., Walters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders-IV-test revision (4th ed., rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss. Vol. 1: Attachment. New York: Basic Books.
Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent–child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
Campbell, J. C. (2002). Health consequences of intimate partner violence. The Lancet, 359, 1331–1336.
Chaiklin, S., & Schmais, C. (1993). The Chace approach to dance therapy. In S. Sandel, S. Chaiklin, & A. Lohn (Eds.), Foundations of dance/movement therapy: The life and work of Marian Chace (pp. 75–97). Columbia, MD: The Marian Chace Foundation of the American Dance Therapy Association.
Graham-Bermann, S., & Levendosky, A. (1998). Social functioning of preschool-age children whose mothers are emotionally and physically abused. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 1, 59–84.
Gray, A. (2001). The body remembers: Dance/movement therapy with an adult survivor of torture. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 23, 29–43.
Herman, J. L. (1992). Complex PTSD: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5, 377–391.
Hofer, M. (1984). Relationships as regulators: A psychobiologic perspective on bereavement. Psychosomatic Medicine, 46(3), 183–197.
Huth-Bocks, A., Levendosky, A., & Semel, M. (2001). The direct and indirect effects of domestic violence on young children’s intellectual functioning. Journal of Family Violence, 16, 269–290.
LeDoux, J. (2002). Synaptic self: How our brains become who we are. New York: Penguin Books.
Leventhal, F., & Chang, M. (1991). Dance/movement therapy with battered women: A paradigm of action. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 13, 131–145.
Levine, P., & Frederick, A. (1997). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Lewis, T., Amini, F., & Lannon, R. (2000). The general theory of love. New York: Random House.
Lieberman, A. F., & Zeanah, G. H. (1999). Contributions of attachment theory to infant–parent psychotherapy and other interventions with infants and young children. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment theory and research (pp. 555–574). New York: Guilford Press.
Lyons-Ruth, K., & Jacobvitz, D. (1999). Attachment disorganization: Unresolved loss, relational violence, and lapses in behavioral and attentional strategies. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment (pp. 520–554). New York: Guilford.
Meltzoff, A. N., & Brooks, R. (2007). Intersubjectivity before language: Three windows on preverbal sharing. In S. Bråten (Ed.), On being moved: From mirror neurons to empathy (p. 149174). Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishing Company.
Moore, C. (2006). Dance/movement therapy in the light of trauma: Research findings of a multidisciplinary project. In S. C. Koch & I. Bräuninger (Eds.), Advances in Dance/movement therapy: Theoretical perspectives and empirical findings (pp. 104–115). Berlin: Logos Verlag.
NiCarthy, G. (1982). Getting free: A handbook for women in abusive relationships. Seattle: The Seal Press.
Perry, B. (2003). Nature and nurture of brain development: How early experience shapes child and culture. Neighborhoods to Neurons Conference, 17–18 May 2003, Los Angeles, CA.
Rothschild, B. (2000). The body remembers: The psychophysiology of trauma and trauma treatment. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Sbiglio, M. G. (2006). Dance/movement therapy and non-verbal assessment of family violence: A pilot comparative study. In S. C. Koch & I. Bräuninger (Eds.), Advances in dance/movement therapy: Theoretical perspectives and empirical findings (pp. 142–153). Berlin: Logos Verlag.
Schore, A. N. (2001). Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22, 7–66.
Schore, A. N. (2003). Affect regulation and the repair of the self. New York: Norton.
Schore, A.N. (2004, July 24). Lecture presented in Developmental Psychoneurobiology. Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara Graduate Institute.
Siegel, D. (1999a). The developing mind. New York: Gilford Press.
Siegel, D. (1999b). Relationships and the developing mind. Child Care Information Exchange, 11, 48–51.
Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant: A view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. New York: Basic Books.
Stern, D. (2003). The present moment in psychotherapy and everyday life. New York: W. W. Norton.
Trevarthen, C. (1977). Descriptive analyses of infant communicative behavior. In H. R. Schaffer (Ed.), Studies of mother–infant interaction (pp. 227–270). New York: Academic Press.
van der Kolk, B. A., McFarlane, A. C., & Weisaeth, L. (Eds.). (1996). Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Walker, L. E. (1991). Post-traumatic stress disorder in women: Diagnosis and treatment of battered woman syndrome. Psychotherapy, 28(1), 21–29.
Weinfield, N. S., Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., & Carlson, E. A. (1999). The nature of individual differences in infant-caregiver attachment. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment (pp. 68–88). New York: Guilford.
Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (1998). Children exposed to partner violence. In J. Jasinski & L. Williams (Eds.), Partner violence: A comprehensive review of 20 years of research (pp. 184–209). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
About this article
Cite this article
Devereaux, C. Untying the Knots: Dance/Movement Therapy with a Family Exposed to Domestic Violence. Am J Dance Ther 30, 58 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10465-008-9055-x
- Dance/movement therapy
- Domestic violence
- Family therapy
- Attachment theory
- Affect regulation