Drama therapy is inclusive of those “approaches that stress the appreciation of creative theatre as a medium for self-expression and playful group interaction and that base their techniques on improvisation and theatre exercises.” (Fink, et al, 1984). The field has developed during the last few decades and has led to the organization in 1979 of the National Association of Drama Therapy, which has developed standards of training and competence and qualifications for functioning as registered drama therapists.
What to expect?
Theater techniques were inculcated into mental health practices by a number of pioneers such as Jacob Moreno ,Jerzy Grotowski , Winifred Ward, and Peter Slade which attended on the inner experiences of the actor over the audience, utilizing fantasy and role playing. From then onwards, creative theater methods have been employed into hospitals, outpatient clinics, prisons,and schools and have been found quite helpful in disturbed and handicapped individuals along with those populations who are usually not approachable by the usual psychotherapeutic methods (Jennings, 1974).
How does it work?
Characters chosen for parts in the designed drama represent forces, animals, objects, people, etc., with which or whom the individual is neurotically either fused and identified, or who are idealized or conflicted entities. Acting out of feelings and attitudes is encouraged by the therapist through a set script or by improvisations and role playing. The therapist participates actively, attempting to resolve any restraint in free expression. Role playing is employed to brings out both stable patterns of behavior and styles of interaction, as well as fleeting undercurrent inhibitions and impulsive outbursts that are both constructive and destructive in their consequences. The relationship of the actor to the role that is being played, as well as the interactions with the other actors in the play is especially interesting. (McReynolds & DeVoge, 1977)
The controlled acting-out of fearsome strivings and attitudes helps to expose them and leads to clarification. Thus, obsessive gentleness may be revealed as a defense against the desire to lash out at real or imagined adversaries. A protagonist so burdened may be encouraged to swing away at imagined persons who obstruct. A woman whose spontaneity is crushed may be enabled to dance around the room, liberating herself from inhibitions that block expressive movement. A suicidal person may portray going through the notions of destroying himself in fantasy, thus helping the therapist to discuss openly an impulse that otherwise may be translated into tragic.
When is it used?
Originally fashioned for use in hospitals and institutions, these methods are increasingly being utilized with individuals and groups in outpatient clinics and even private practice. Standards of training, qualification, registration, certification, and licensure have been developed by emerging national organizations that are related to each area of the creative therapies, and research and writings have been increasing gradually in the last few years as a consequence of this ferment.
Role of therapist:
Johnson (1982 a,b) has engaged a developmental approach on the theory that a block in development sponsors mental illness, which may be resolved by an external organized environment with definite boundaries, expectations, and rules. Such a structured environment is provided in drama therapy through specifying the roles of therapist and group members and designating physical and other material arrangements. Making use of of movement, sound, and imagery attempt to reconstruct “sensorimotor,” “symbolic,” and “reflective” stages, as depicted by Piaget and kindred developmentalists as a means of progressing from preverbal to verbal forms of expression.