Act It Out: Drama Therapy

Some life experiences are too difficult or painful to address solely with verbal dialogue. Dramatic arts use
metaphor to convey emotion, which has led to the development of a practice now known as drama therapy, more formally referred to as psychodrama. Drama therapy is defined by The North American Drama Therapy Association as “an active, experiential approach to facilitating change. Through storytelling, projective play, purposeful improvisation, and performance, participants are invited to rehearse desired behaviors, practice being in a relationship, expand and find flexibility between life roles, and perform the change they wish to be and see in the world.” The idea blends the use of verbal and physical expression to identify, address, and purge emotion. Individual and group therapeutic activities include storytelling, role playing, puppetry, games, scriptwriting, improvisation, and more.
For participants, the process is simple. Each session usually begins with a check in to allow the therapist an understanding of how patients are feeling. For most adults, this is a simple conversation, but for younger children, emotion cards are usually used. Next, the drama therapist prepares patients for the session with a warmup activity intended to loosen the muscles and ignite imagination. For example, participants might begin by stating their names and acting out their current moods. Then, the therapist introduces the main activity which can vary by case and is dependent upon the desired outcome for the current session. Finally, upon completion of the activity, the therapist closes with discussion about the progress made and may even establish a plan for future visits.
As drama therapy gains momentum as a sound method for treatment, its implementation is being seen in hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes, schools, prisons, correctional facilities, and more. Treatment is typically offered to participants who suffer from:

  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • schizophrenia
  • dementia
  • eating disorders
  • learning difficulties
  • interpersonal relationship issues
  • substance abuse
  • rehabilitation
  • grief and loss
  • behavioral issues related to Aspberger’s and Autism.

Though the field is relatively new, studies have shown drama therapy to be effective in helping participants to improve on a broad spectrum. Active programs provide safe, secure platforms that encourage patients to fully express their emotions through playful and dramatic activities. This allows individuals to progress at their own pace. While the desired result varies for each participant, the common goal is healing and growth through taking part in diverse dramatic interactions. Therapy programs typically work to help participants to:

  • see an increase in positive behavior.
  • develop strong interpersonal relationship skills.
  • become more self-aware and improve self-esteem.
  • become physically and mentally stronger.
  • improve the overall quality of living.

As drama therapy continues to grow in influence across America, South Georgia’s health climate can expect to gain greatly from the implementation of its various offerings. While psychodrama does not necessarily involve actors on a stage, the success of existing programs serves to prove a correlation between the arts and both mental and physical health.

Act It Out:
Drama Therapy

Written by: Miranda Moore

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