Creative Arts Therapies Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Art in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling (MA)


Creative Arts Therapies

First Advisor

Susan Imus

Second Advisor

Laura Downey

Third Advisor

Andrea Brown


choreography, developmental disabilities


The research thesis titled, “Performance as therapy: An intervention for adults with developmental disabilities” examined how adults with developmental disabilities (DD) respond to this specific dance/movement therapy intervention. It shows how this intervention method addresses the psychosocial goal of increasing interpersonal skills. The research took place at a day rehabilitation center, located in Chicago, IL. The co-researchers are participants of a day rehabilitation program, which offers creative arts therapies. The co-researchers are both male and female who range in age from 21 to 60. Caucasian, African American and Hispanic ethnic backgrounds are represented. Co-researchers have DD, which include diagnoses of mental retardation, down syndrome and some mood disorders. The research is inspired by artistic inquiry methods that used choreography and performance to collect and analyze data. The co-researchers engaged in a process of performing both dance improvisation and set movement for each other in seven dance/movement therapy sessions. Co-researchers also created a dance show as a final performance for the day rehabilitation center and Chicago community. The show was made up of a set series of dance improvisations. As a result, the co-researchers created a unique structure for performance as therapy that was conducive to fitting their needs as a population. They experienced universality and altruism which are both therapeutic factors of change, achieved both group and individual therapeutic goals, had high overall group attendance, and engaged in social interpersonal skills. These results show how performance as therapy is in fact a promising intervention for adults with DD.