The ancient Greeks used drama for catharsis. As anyone who has acted knows, theater can tap into emotions, build self esteem, and reduce feelings of isolation.
But drama therapy takes those emotional gains to another level. It uses drama and theater processes intentionally to achieve therapeutic goals. These can include symptom relief, emotional and physical integration, improvement of interpersonal skills and relationships, and personal growth.
According to the National Association of Drama Therapy (NADT), the modality is active and experiential. It provides a context for participants to tell their stories, set goals, solve problems, express feelings, or achieve catharsis. The NADT was incorporated in 1979 to establish and uphold standards of professional competence for drama therapists and set requirements for qualifying as a Registered Drama Therapist (RDT).
With older adults, for example, drama therapy can maximize cognitive and communication skills, build community, and strengthen self-esteem. With addicted clients, this creative arts modality helps them express emotions more openly and envision a drug-free future. Because it’s active, drama therapy allows clients to act out negative behaviors—without consequence—while facing them directly and truthfully.
Often using puppets and dolls, drama therapy with children and adolescents taps into the appeal that play has for young people—assisting them to overcome feelings of isolation and gain mastery over conflicts and anxieties.
Among the processes and techniques drama therapy employs are improvisation, theater games, storytelling, and enactment. Many drama therapists use text, performance, or ritual to enhance the therapy.
Drama therapy has been used in a wide array of settings, including mental health facilities, schools, hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, correctional facilities, adolescent group homes, nursing homes, housing projects, and theaters, among others.
In what may be a first, Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Washington State, uses drama therapy with forensic patients at the psychiatric hospital, with people who have been deemed criminally insane or incompetent to stand trial.
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Source: The New Social Worker. Click here to see the original article.