Drama therapy applies practices from the theatre to the process of psychotherapeutic healing. Drama therapy is an active approach that helps the individual to grow and heal by creating new stories through action, and by practising new roles which can later be implemented in real life.
History of drama therapy
In the early 20th century, drama was used by occupational therapists in hospitals and by social workers in community programmes to teach social and emotional skills. The field emerged as a separate profession in the 1970s.
How does it work?
Drama therapy uses drama processes (such as games, improvisation, storytelling, role play) and products (such as puppets, masks, plays/performances) to help people to better understand their thoughts and emotions or to improve their behaviour. However, unlike most types of therapy which rely purely on talking (eg psychotherapy), drama therapy relies on taking action and doing things.
What does it involve?
Depending on the goals and needs of the client, the drama therapist chooses a method that will achieve the desired combination of understanding, emotional release and learning of new behaviour. Some methods, such as drama games, improvisation, role play, developmental transformations, sociodrama and psychodrama, are very process-oriented and unscripted. The work is done with the individual within a therapy session. Other methods, such as the performance of plays, are more formal and involve an audience. Puppets, masks and rituals can be used as part of performance or as process techniques within a therapy session.
Who benefits from drama therapy?
Drama therapy benefits many client populations and is used in a variety of settings. These include psychiatric hospitals, mental health facilities, day treatment centres, nursing homes, centres for the physically/developmentally/learning disabled, substance abuse treatment, schools, businesses and correctional facilities. Clients include children with learning and social difficulties, the developmentally delayed, psychiatric patients, the disabled, substance abusers, AIDS patients, and those with disorders associated with aging.
Value of drama therapy
Drama therapy is a health promotion service that dynamically and effectively addresses the needs of people from young children to the elderly. It can be used in the assessment and treatment of individuals, couples, families and groups. Drama therapists may be the primary or complementary therapist within a treatment team, depending on the needs of the institution and the individual.