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Press release

Dance Movement Psychotherapy students support care home residents

Dance Movement Psychotherapy students from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (QMU) have been using their skills to support older people living in care homes.

This innovative pilot project provided first year students on the University’s Master Degree in Dance Movement Psychotherapy with an outstanding learning experience, whilst also offering care home residents the opportunity to benefit from improved psychological well-being. The collaborative project, which involved QMU, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and the Care Inspectorate, aimed to identify how care homes could support dance movement psychotherapy students to improve their skills and learning, but also to ascertain what benefits residents received in terms of personal outcomes and improved quality of life.

Dance Movement Psychotherapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance through which a person can engage creatively in a process to further their emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration. Dance Movement Psychotherapists work in a number of different settings with people with a range of needs. Practice placements are core to the education of Allied Health Professions (AHPs) students ensuring that they are able to transfer their theoretical knowledge into practice. The use of care homes as a learning environment is currently being explored by the Care Inspectorate Rehabilitation Consultant, Edith Macintosh and NES AHPs. This pilot project has provided support to enable dance movement psychotherapy students to spend one or two days a week over the academic year working with residents in Edinburgh care homes.

Dr Vicky Karkou, Programme Leader for QMU’s MSc in Dance Movement Psychotherapy, found it very rewarding to see QMU students putting their knowledge into practice and making a valuable contribution to the quality of care currently available within care homes. Witnessing the response from students, care home residents and staff, she said: “The collaboration presented a wonderful opportunity to introduce Dance Movement Psychotherapy to care homes and residents who previously had no experience of this type of therapy. Students and residents very quickly developed meaningful relationships. This allowed residents, some, for the first time, to explore their emotional difficulties through movement. The students were also able to make valuable connections with other residents and care staff by addressing issues around isolation, loneliness, bereavement and loss, as well as joy.”

Leo Sofianidis, one of the students who worked on the project, believes that the care home residents were able to derive specific benefits from the therapy. He said: “Dance Movement Psychotherapy can keep the body and mind alive and can improve the quality of people’s lives.

Leo continued: “Through group work, residents were able to build relationships in a safe context where they could explore issues, be with people they liked and share their life experiences through words and movement.”

Dr Karkou explained: “We know from this initial experience that there is a need to provide ways of educating people about what dance movement psychotherapy is and how it can support the emotional well-being of older people through non-verbal communication. However, the reactions of residents spoke volumes and it was rewarding for both students and care home providers to witness the benefits of the student interaction.”

Heather Cooney, who also worked on the project, explained: “At the beginning there was very little interaction with residents. However, at the end of the session there was lots of interaction with residents , sharing stories and reminiscing. My role became less and less directive as the residents took control and decided what they wanted from the sessions.”

Resident Joan Mitchell, aged 102, found in Dance movement Psychotherapy, an opportunity to remain active.  She claimed: “I have no desire to lie back and do nothing.” Joey Mullen, another resident, explained that during the sessions she did not feel pushed to do anything that she could not manage and she received enough explanations of everything they were doing. After the sessions people had diverse responses. Some were calmer, while others were more active.  For Margo McKay for example, the sessions made her feel ‘invigorated’ and found the whole experience ‘superb!’

Mike Heard, practice supervisor added that the presence of Dance Movement Psychotherapy students in the care home benefitted not only the residents but also care home staff. He said: “In a care home, staff are not always aware of the psychological needs of the residents. Dance Movement Psychotherapy helped to bring the setting a new awareness of the psychological needs of the residents rather than focusing only on physical disabilities.”

Dr Karkou concluded: “We are delighted that the pilot project was such a success for our students, the staff and managers in the care homes and the residents. It significantly enhanced the student experience on the Masters programme and also confirmed Queen Margaret University’s commitment to projects which improve quality of life.”

NES and the Care Inspectorate are currently working with other AHP education providers to further explore this model of practice placements, ensuring that AHPs are given opportunities to develop skills and knowledge that prepare them for the changing health and social care environment they will be working in. A short film of the student experience was produced by a QMU media student and funded by NES. It is available to view on U Tube at:


For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mob: 07711 011239, Email:



last modified 20/02/12 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU - Tel: +44 (0)131 474 0000
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