Academics Arts and Humanities

Research scholar combines mindfulness with dance movement therapy

Malena Price, a U.S. Fulbright Research Scholar and McKnight Doctoral Fellow studying adult clinical psychology, espouses how dance movement therapy combined with mindfulness training may help to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in undergraduates.
Melena Price

Malena Price, a U.S. Fulbright Research Scholar, is studying adult clinical psychology.


Dancing can be many things. From a form of expression to great exercise, dancing and other movements are proven to release stress from the body, lift a person’s mood, and aid in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Malena Price, a third-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Miami, is taking well-known research to new heights this semester by investigating the effects of dance movement therapy and dance therapy infused with mindfulness on undergraduate students’ mental health. 

Price, along with her advisor Amishi Jha, a professor of psychology and director of contemplative neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, are investigating the curriculum offered this semester in the two dance courses taught by Carol Kaminsky, a senior dance lecturer and the dance program coordinator at the Frost School of Music. 

“I will be looking at psychological health, cognitive functioning and interoceptive measures—like body-based measures to see how connected you feel to your body—to see if there are any differences in those things based on the class that the student is in,” said Price. 

She suggested that mindfulness-infused dance movement therapy as a practice represents the embodiment of mindfulness—the practice of intentionally bringing one’s attention to the present-moment experience. She plans to continue this research in fall 2023. 

Hailing from Poughkeepsie, New York, Price received her bachelor’s degree in international comparative studies and her master’s degree in Arabic and global health. Both were from Duke University. While pursuing her education, she ventured overseas to Jordan to examine the psychosocial determinants of health in a community of Syrian refugees residing in Amman. After she completed her master’s degree, Price was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant from the Department of State to return to Jordan to explore mental health stigma that pervades refugee communities. During this time, Price also volunteered with a grassroots, non-governmental organization to facilitate and evaluate the best care options for Sudanese refugees seeking asylum in Amman. Price’s work understanding the gaps in mental health service delivery among culturally and religiously diverse populations fueled her desire to pursue her doctorate in clinical psychology.

Growing up, Price said she was taught by her parents the importance of being civically engaged and that giving back to people who might not have the same privileges was important. Ultimately, all her experiences engaging with underserved groups facing barriers to comprehensive mental health care led her to the work she is enthusiastic about today. 

“She is a stellar scholar and researcher. It has been wonderful to see her hone her expertise in contemplative neuroscience to support her longer-term goal of bringing evidenced-based well-being tools to many worthy communities,” said Jha. 

One day, Price hopes to make mindfulness resources available to individuals, corporations, and institutions to enhance their wellness and resilience. 

“I really believe in empowering people at a grassroots level,” she said. 

Price is on track to receive her Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a specialization in contemplative neuroscience from the University in summer 2025. 

“The hard work Malena is doing today makes me hopeful that she will do all of the great things that she intends to do,” said Jha.