Dramatherapy is the intentional and systematic use of drama and theatre processes to achieve healthy psychological growth and change. The general aims of a Dramatherapy session include exploring ideas, issues and problems using drama-derived activities; expressing and exploring feelings, developing spontaneity and imagination and creativity, improving self image and self confidence, developing social and relationship skills.
Dramatherapy involves several different forms of expression such as movement, voice work, body language and speech.
Dramatherapy offers a variety of working methods that are applicable to a wide variety of clients. It can help the process of emotional growth through the development of trust, risk taking and the experience of different ways of being. The role of the Dramatherapist is to provide a safe, supportive space to enable and encourage the client/s to express her/himself in whatever way they are able. Drama therapist’s work in a variety of settings including health, education, social and prison services, as well as in private practice. The playful and active approach makes it a very suitable intervention for adults and children with learning disabilities and autism.
The methods used in Dramatherapy include spontaneous and dramatic play, drama games, mime, role-play, scripts, masks, myths, stories, metaphor and symbolism. A dramatic talent is not necessary for participation. The emphasis is not on performance but on the experience of the group or individual. The role of the Dramatherapist is to develop a programme with appropriate aims, objectives and structures to meet the needs and abilities of the client/s.
Dramatherapy reaches far beyond a single discipline, drawing freely from concepts of psychology, theatre/drama, psychoanalytical theory, anthropology and theories of child development. We can go far back as ancient Greece to discover its roots where ancient forms of healing rituals and theatre performances influenced what we classify as Dramatherapy today.
Dramatherapy in modern society began in Europe in the 19th century. The first recorded use of the word Dramatherapy was by Peter Slade, who in the 1930's referred to all forms of carefully applied Drama as Dramatherapy. By the 1960's in Britain, a remedial Drama Centre was set up by Sue Jennings and Gordan Wiseman to work with children and adults with a wide range of needs. The British Association of Dramatherapy was formed in 1976 and provided a professional base for those who had been using Drama in therapy and education since the early 1960’s. Dramatherapists trained abroad began working in Ireland in the mid 1980's and the first training in Dramatherapy began in 2002 in NUI Maynooth.
Acting for real: Dramatherapy, process, technique and performance. Emunah, R. (1994). London: Routledge.
The handbook of Dramatherapy. Jennings, S. (1993). London: Routledge.
Drama as living: Theatre as life. Jones, P. (1996). London: Routledge.
Essays in Dramatherapy. Landy, R. (1996). London: Jessica Kingsley.
Q; Do I need to be able to act to participate in dramatherapy?
No. Dramatherapy helps people to use their creativity to work on issues that are important to them. It does this by using Dramatic and Theatrical processes which are explained to the client but you do NOT have to act to make use of Dramatherapy.
Q: Do I have to role play in front of other people?
No. You will not have to do anything you do not want to do. While Dramatherapy can involve the process of taking on roles - this is only done if the client wants to do this. There are many other ways in which Dramatherapy can work with a client. For example through storymaking, using scripts, movement, sound etc.
Q: Do I have to dress up?
No. Again. You do not have to do anything that you do not want to do. In Dramatherapy the methods used are chosen to suit the client and what he/she is comfortable with. The use of costume and dressing up will only be used where appropriate and so long as the client is happy to do so.
Q: Is dramatherapy always done in a group?
No. Dramatherapy can be done with individuals and in a group setting.
Q: Will I have to speak or perform?
Dramatherapy is psychotherapy through the medium of drama. Obviously, for the client to benefit communication is essential. However, one of the advantages of Dramatherapy is that it offers the client a range of communication opportunities - through movement, sound, facial expression, role, and creative imagination. The client will not be asked to do anything they do not wish to do – including performing.