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Supporting the wellbeing of caregivers of children on the autism spectrum: A qualitative report on experiences of attending group dance movement psychotherapy

Aithal, S., Karkou, V., Makris, S. , Karaminis, T. ORCID: 0000-0003-2977-5451 & Powell, J. (2023). Supporting the wellbeing of caregivers of children on the autism spectrum: A qualitative report on experiences of attending group dance movement psychotherapy. PLoS ONE, 18(8), article number e0288626. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0288626


Caregivers of children on the autism spectrum can carry a significant amount of practical, psychological, and social demands and responsibilities that are highly stressful. A group Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) was offered to facilitate the wellbeing of caregivers. In this article, we explore the experiences of the therapeutic processes and outcomes of the intervention from the perspectives of caregivers, the therapist, and the researcher/co-facilitator. Method: Four clusters of caregivers of children on the autism spectrum (N = 20 Mean age = 39.25 years) took part in five group DMP sessions lasting 90 minutes delivered across two special educational needs settings. Twenty reflective focus groups took place in total, with each taking place at the end of each DMP session. Participants were invited to capture their experiences through arts-based drawings, while therapist and participating researcher/co-facilitator kept session-based notes and arts-based reflections. These arts-based and verbal data were grouped to generate themes. Results: Six overarching themes emerged from the arts-based and verbal data with multiple subthemes that describe the contribution of DMP towards promoting caregivers’ wellbeing and identified key challenges in implementing the intervention. These themes are: (1) Beholding within and around; (2) Reflecting and reinforcing strengths; (3) Exchanging views; (4) Looking back and carrying forward; (5) Core benefits; and (6) Challenges to engage in DMP. Conclusion: Caregivers talked about their experience of participating in the DMP groups as positive and acknowledged the helpful and challenging aspects of taking part in DMP intervention. They appreciated the creative and expressive nature of the intervention to promote their emotional and social wellbeing. The challenges identified in the study indicate that further awareness is needed within school environments about the contribution arts therapies can make towards establishing appropriate and sustainable interventions for caregivers.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright: © 2023 Aithal et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of journal.pone.0288626.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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