Drama Therapy

Drama Therapy Techniques & Guide

Hi this is Rohit Gala & I’ll help you to understand the effects of treating a person with “Drama Therapy”.

Drama Therapy:
Drama therapy is defined by the National Association for Drama Therapy (NADT) as "the systematic and intentional use of drama/theater processes, products, and associations to achieve the therapeutic goals of symptom relief, emotional and physical integration and personal growth." Drama therapy is an active approach that helps the client tell his or her story to solve a problem, achieve a catharsis, extend the depth and breadth of inner experience, understand the meaning of images, and strengthen the ability to observe personal roles while increasing flexibility between roles.

Drama therapy evolved from the experience and research of psychotherapists, teachers, and theater professionals who recognized that sometimes traditional verbal therapies were too rigid to permit clients to confront and work through individual disturbances. The balanced verbal and non-verbal components of drama therapy with its language of metaphor allow clients to work productively within a therapeutic alliance.

The National Association for Drama Therapy (NADT) was incorporated in 1979 to establish and uphold high standards of professional competence and ethics among drama therapists; to develop criteria for training and credentialing; to sponsor publications and conferences; and to promote the profession of drama therapy through information, education, and advocacy.

Registered Drama Therapists are trained in theater arts, psychology, and psychotherapy. Training includes improvisation, puppetry, role-playing, pantomime, mask work, and theatrical production. Training in psychology and psychotherapy includes theories of personality, group process, and supervised clinical experience with a broad range of populations. The association supports the study of drama therapy through graduate programs in accredited colleges or universities and also through the NADT approved Alternative Training Program. Courses of study are evaluated by the association's Education Committee and the NADT Board of Examiners.

Drama therapy benefits many client populations and is used in a variety of settings. These include psychiatric hospitals, mental health facilities, day treatment centers, nursing homes, and centers for the physically/developmentally/learning disabled, substance abuse treatment, schools, businesses, and correctional facilities. Some populations served 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.

This Drama Therapy is designed to inform the public on the useful effect of therapy on the socialization of children, particularly those who suffer some kind of abuse. Drama therapy is a vital tool for children to express their feelings and emotions in a less threatening environment than psychotherapy, a form of therapy that is most commonly used by adults. This therapy will help people know how it helps a child become more accepting of their feelings and start on the road to recovery.


Purpose of Drama Therapy:
Drama therapy is a different form of therapy than psychodrama in a few distinct ways. First, drama therapy is not necessarily directly related to the person’s real-life experience.

Drama therapy concentrates on play and improvising. Drama therapy is concentrating on making the patient feel comfortable and not necessarily making an immediate breakthrough in their progress. In psychodrama, the patient must be intensely self-disclosing.

It seems that psychodrama is more suitable for the adult patient, as it requires the patient to be conscious of the fact that the therapy may make them feel uncomfortable or bring about a different set of emotions that the patient has not felt or does want to feel.

Children, on the other hand, would make more progress using drama therapy. Through the use of role-play and other such improvisational skills and fun activities such as mask making, children are allowed to explore their feelings in a safe environment.


History of Drama Therapy:
Drama therapy began in England and America. Considered the pioneers of drama therapy, Peter Slade, Brian Way, Viola Spolin, and Richard Courtney laid the groundwork for moving creative drama from the classroom into other settings. These creative people started their work in the 1960s. Before, therapy of any kind was almost unheard of. Through their work, three more people, Melanie Klien, Virginia Axline, and Margaret Lowenfield, helped paved the way for using drama and play as form on therapy. They further used dramatic play as a variant of play therapy and incorporated dramatic elements of role-play, storytelling, and doll play into child psychotherapy. Clearly, this work has been extremely influential on the therapy concept we know of today.

Traditionally, people with emotional and physical problems, particularly those who suffer from child abuse and neglect, are made to face the inadequacies of the system. Years ago, therapy was only offered to them in the form of counselors and psychotherapists. However, now the options for children are very different.

People of all problems were shown the same basic drama. But in these days people are made to some tests from which the researchers come to know which drama to be shown to which child & accordingly the drama are being shown.
These dramas help the children to actually understand their emotional pattern & also how to respond to those new emotions which they are facing as they are growing old day by day.

How does the therapy work?
People are a sensitive group for therapy. The emotions that they are feeling are new to them and they may not know how to handle it. In Renee Emunahs article on Drama Therapy, she says that the model of drama therapy provides a gradual, paced progression from playful dramatic work facilitates interaction and a sense of liberation for real-life constraints to psycho dramatic work that deepens ones examination and transformation to personal, emotional life issues. It is that play that makes drama therapy so useful to children.

Straight talking may be emotionally draining on a people and they may show signs of resistance. In drama therapy, the people are so engrossed in play that it is only until they start showing signs of a break-through that they realize that are making emotionally progress. However, resistance can become an issue even in drama therapy. But, there is a way to break through it that it far more creative than in psychotherapy.

People are able to use that resistance in a different sort of play to realize why exactly they are holding back these emotions: acting-out clients may enact in the context of a dramatic game rebelliousness or hostility, and thereby immediately experience an acknowledgement of who they are and how they feel, at the same time that they experience success at the activity.

No matter how silly or private they feel a problem is, they can act it out and create a safe distance between themselves and that problem. It is important to note that this distance does not remain intact though. After a significant time in drama therapy, they are able to realize what is emotionally wrong in their life and want to change.

In child abuse cases, that may take longer. Children often act out what has happened to them and how they are feeling. They are more scared than other clients and require more one-on-one attention and role-playing with their therapist. Amanda Gafter-Ricks notes that children who suffer abuse are emotionally withdrawn. But, after time is spent with them, they become more out-going.


Who does drama therapy help?
Drama therapy has helped people with stress and anxiety, depression, addictions, grief and loss, physical illness, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, behavioral problems, special needs, family dysfunction, relationship issues, anger management, negative thinking, parenting frustrations, divorce, career and financial challenges, mind-body-spirit issues, developmental and physical disabilities, and limitations and struggles of just about any kind. It is also used in the business world to promote leadership, visioning, creativity, and communication and is a wonderful tool for personal growth and creating the life one desires.

Drama therapy is used in a variety of settings including but not limited to holistic wellness centers, mental health facilities, schools, hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, adult day care centers, correctional facilities, community centers, after-school programs, shelters, adolescent group homes, nursing homes, private practice settings, corporations, theaters, housing projects, medical schools, and training organizations.

Drama therapy is used with children and adults, individuals, couples, families, and groups.
Transpersonal drama therapy is a wonderful adjunct treatment for promoting physical healing. Because the mind, body, and spirit are interconnected, mental/emotional and spiritual healing will help set the stage for the body’s own natural healing mechanisms to do their job and heal physical dis-ease. When one is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually “at ease,” “dis-ease” may more easily abate. Not only is there often (if not always) a mental/emotional component to illness, but reactions to physical illness often cause mental and emotional problems including extreme fear, stress, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. Transpersonal Drama Therapy can help alleviate these problems.


Why would you prefer drama therapy instead of traditional psychotherapy?
1. The beauty of drama therapy is that it offers not only the benefits of traditional psychotherapy but also is extremely effective at uncovering repressed and unconscious beliefs, memories, symbols, thoughts and emotions that may not be accessible through the left-brain methods of talk therapy. Traumatic memories, feelings, and beliefs are often repressed and suppressed throughout life as a protective defense mechanism. While stuffing down feelings and repressing memories may have been helpful—even saved your life—at one time, there comes a point when the repressed pain becomes unbearable and may manifest as mental, emotional, and/or physical symptoms. Drama and other art forms are particularly effective at uncovering this detrimental psychic material to which language often does not have access. Art forms offer methods in which to express information (including pre-verbal information) that can only be accessed through the right-brain world of symbolism. Sometimes there are no words to describe one’s experience, but one can express it through movement and sound, art, or music.

2. Through role play, drama therapy is also a superb technique for fostering understanding, empathy, and forgiveness—an integral component of emotional, mental, and even physical healing. True and complete forgiveness for one’s self and others, is of paramount important for well-being. We do not condone others’ harmful behaviors, but we forgive to free ourselves from pain.

3. Through a deep-healing method called Psychodrama, one can access, release, and transform past traumatic events.

4. Through group enactments, healing rituals, and the self-revelation, drama therapy facilitates deep and meaningful connections among participants and makes our life journeys feel like sacred and important parts of the whole history of human existence. As people work in groups, they teach and learn and heal from each other. They share their stories and are encouraged and accepted by the group thereby creating a support system where they can be themselves without fear of being rejected.

5. In drama therapy, by physically acting “as if” certain things are happening, the person gets a viscerally real experience. This enables people to forgive and be forgiven by people not present, to practice new behaviors, to express anger safely, to act as if they already are the person they wish to be, to transform situations, and to try on new roles, and the body interprets it as a genuine event. Since the brain does not know the difference between “reality” and imagination, the person benefits from the enacted, pretend experience as if it actually happened.

6. Drama therapy engages the body and its own wisdom in the process of healing itself. The body knows what it needs for healing and is constantly giving us signals by way of physical symptoms and emotions. By embodying different scenarios, clients gain vital information from the body and how it feels. In drama therapy, one can even role-play with one’s higher self for wisdom and guidance and find one already has the answers within.

7. Drama therapy is fun, engaging, active, and imaginative.


Types of Drama Therapy:
There are different types of Drama Therapy, They are as follows:

1. Role Playing: The first, and more popular, choice is role-playing. Extremely challenging cases (such as child abuse), are often done in a one-on-one setting, with only the therapist and the child in the room. The role-playing usually involves something with the case, whether it is a past event or how the child would talk to or deal with their abuser in a future situation. Sometimes, the therapist opts for group therapy, where two clients would be involved in the role-play and then, after the scene concluded, the rest of the group would offer ideas on ways that the situation could be changed for the better. The risk is run, in group therapy, of having a child who is disruptive and negative, but like with resistance, it’s worked through with the help of drama therapy, specifically role-play.

2. Mask Making: Another common type of drama therapy is ‘Mask making’. The Drama Therapy Institute of L.A says that through the use of masks the participants learns more about himself or herself, and reveals feelings, emotions, and perceptions previously not expressed. The participant experiences the world with a new freedom and creativity. The mask transforms the person into a persona. The mask as persona helps the individual explore aspects of the self and functions as a double of the person. With mask masking, a child is allowed to hide behind the safety of the mask, while at the same time, evoking new emotions and feelings that help them cope with the experience that they have gone through. In mask making, as well as with art therapy, the child can emit what they are feeling through paper and pen, so to speak. They are not required to vocalize anything. Some children are afraid to involve themselves in role-play because they fear they run the risk of rejection. This is especially common in child abuse victims. They feel that the abuse is a sign of rejection. Masks allow them to explore their individuality and creativeness within the comfort of their own mind.

3. Story Telling: In this part the children are told a story & that story is basically emotional & related to those students. But the main part is with the help of these stories children are made aware of the future they will face with the same kind of attitude. So the drama is made in such a way that the viewers are made attached to that drama emotionally & the most important part of this story telling is that after the story is finished children are made to give their views upon the story. Along with that if they are wrong then they are corrected & the effect of the good & bad is again explained by the story teller.

These are the three main types of drama therapy. There are certain benefits which are good for the society as well & for the person on whom it is being tested. Children might think that it is more fun and therefore more socially acceptable. Childhood and adolescence is such an increasingly hard time, that acceptance seems to be the most important thing. To have fun, while dealing with any emotional problem that a child might have, is killing two birds with one stone.

Most child abuse victims have missed out on the fun of childhood spending a good amount of their years afraid and struggling with the feeling that they are inadequate. Through drama therapy, the child learns that they have an important role in society, as well as have a good time. Looking forward to going to therapy is key in making a change.

The child has to be accepting of the therapist and the therapy, otherwise they may just remain the same. Drama therapy elicits joy in children. Their creativity can be expressed, but at the same time it is a serious form of therapy. Amanda Gafter-Ricks interview proves it: Hopefully all goals have been met. That is: increased self-esteem, the ability to protect themselves from future abuse, a lessening of disruptive behaviors, and the general increase in confidence that would be required it returning to an abusive situation. A child, or any client for that matter, is a changed person after drama therapy.


This therapy is also used upon persons to help him leave any addiction that he has:
Drama Therapy promotes an environment in which addicted clients can openly express emotions, explore a drug-free future, develop communication skills, make personal connections, and practice honesty. Because it is action-oriented, Drama Therapy allows clients to act out negative behaviors, such as drug-seeking, and consider their harmful impact in a more concrete way than traditional treatment approaches, without consequences. Clients are urged not to rationalize or deny addiction; rather, through the dramatic process, they are challenged to face their issues directly and truthfully.
Through Drama Therapy, clients have the opportunity to practice new skills, such as refusing drugs, and to imagine and take on new roles, such as a sober self. In addition, techniques such as role-play and improvisation offer clients a fresh perspective on their behaviors, choices, and relationships. Clients explore and develop their innate strengths through theatrical techniques that offer the distance necessary to consider their addiction (and resulting issues) without feeling overwhelmed.

Due to extended substance use, clients’ emotional development often stagnates at the age at which they became addicted. Many of these individuals also have a history of abuse and/or trauma. Drama Therapy addresses such developmental issues through storytelling and embodiment, meeting clients where they are and helping them mature in an organic, patient, and creative manner.

The process of Drama Therapy is both insightful and enjoyable. Because addicted individuals tend to be sensitive and creative people, they take quickly to the arts and thrive on being able to express themselves through movement, art, words, music, and drama. Drama Therapy, said one client, “gave me a way to have excitement in my life without the use of drugs. I can have fun being me without having to put on a mask.” By engaging in Drama Therapy, chemically dependent clients learn that they can have fun without being high.


Clients who engage in Drama Therapy will develop the following:

These are the uses & applicability’s of the drama therapy. If any one of you wants to go or help anyone treat any of the disease then I’m sure with the help of this therapy all the disease can be treated properly.

About the Author: Rohit Gala Is Passionate about helping people till all the people are finally happy & that is why he has joined this counseling course to know people & solve their problems faster. He also likes playing games like Shot- put, javelin throw & Chess. He is a BMS Graduate in finance. He also Like to work hard until the work is done & believes in the thought “It does not matter if you don’t know how to do a thing, but what matter is your craze & your feelings attached to that job to finish it before time.”

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