Background: Depression is the largest cause of mental ill health worldwide. Although interventions such as Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) may offer interesting and acceptable treatment options, current clinical guidelines do not include these interventions in their recommendations mainly because of what is perceived as insufficient research evidence. The 2015 Cochrane review on DMT for depression includes only three studies leading to inconclusive results. In a small and underfunded field such as DMT, expensive multi-centered Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) are as yet rare. It is therefore, necessary to not only capture evidence from RCTs, but to also look beyond such designs in order to identify and assess the range of current evidence. Methods: We therefore conducted a systematic review of studies that aimed to explore the effectiveness in the use of DMT with people with depression. This led to a qualitative narrative synthesis. We also performed meta-analyses that calculated the effect size for all included studies, studies with RCT designs only, followed by a subgroup analysis and a sensitivity analysis. In all meta-analyses a random effects model was used with Standardized Mean Differences (SMD) to accommodate for the heterogeneity of studies and outcome measures. Results: From the 817 studies reviewed, eight studies were identified as meeting our inclusion criteria. Three hundred and fifty one people with depression (mild to severe) participated, 192 of whom attended DMT groups while receiving treatment as usual (TAU) and 159 received TAU only. Qualitative findings suggest there was a decrease in depression scores in favor of DMT groups in all studies. Subgroup analysis performed on depression scores before and 3 months after the completion of DMT groups suggested changes in favor of the DMT groups. When sensitivity analysis was performed, RCTs at high risk of bias were excluded, leaving only studies with adult clients up to the age of 65. In these studies, the highest effect size was found favoring DMT plus TAU for adults with depression, when compared to TAU only. Conclusions: Based on studies with moderate to high quality, we concluded that DMT is an effective intervention in the treatment of adults with depression. Furthermore, by drawing on a wide range of designs with diverse quality, we were able to compile a comprehensive picture of relevant trends relating to the use of DMT in the treatment of depression. Despite the fact that there remains a paucity of high-quality studies, the results have relevance to both policy-making and clinical practice, and become a platform for further research.
Keywords: dance movement therapy; depression; effectiveness; meta-analysis; systematic review.