Dramatherapy is the intentional and systematic use of drama and theatre processes to achieve healthy psychological growth and change. Action methods, spontaneous and dramatic play, drama games, mime, movement, voice, role-play, scripts, masks, myths, stories, metaphor and symbolism are used to enable clients to express, experience and explore relevant issues.
Dramatherapy often involves working ‘within the metaphor', which means that difficult topics or emotions can be explored through the frame of, for example, a story, a poem, a play or a role, creating a safe distance between clients and their troubles.
Dramatherapy's creative flexibility makes it an appropriate intervention for children, adolescents and the elderly. Dramatherapy offers a variety of working methods that are applicable to a wide variety of clients. Consequently, dramatherapists work in a diverse range of settings including mental health, education, services for people with intellectual and/or sensory disability, community settings, social and prison services, as well as in private practice.
The role of the Dramatherapist is to develop a programme with appropriate aims, objectives and structures to meet the needs and abilities of the specific client group. A dramatic talent is not necessary for participation.
The emphasis is on the experience of the group or individual, not on performance.
A dramatherapy session takes place within clear boundaries that protect the client(s). It usually lasts between 40 and 90 minutes and contains five phases:
- Opening: creative check-in with the client(s).
- Focussing: warm-up activities to bring focus to the work of the group or individual.
- Core: group themes are explored through dramatic activities.
- Closure: de-roling and discussion/reflection on the work of the session.
- Completion: ensuring the work is left in the room.
Therapeutic outcomes vary according to the setting, the dramatherapist’s specific approach, and, above all, the client’s presenting issues. Treatment goals can be summarised as follows:
- Emotional expression and/or containment.
- Gaining of distance and perspective in relation to issues, consequently enabling the development of a new relationship to personal material.
- Expansion of role repertoire.
- Better understanding of self and improved self-image.
- Development of interpersonal skills with the aim of reducing the sense of isolation/alienation felt by many clients.