Dramatherapy is a psychological therapy in which all of the performance arts are utilised within the therapeutic relationship. Our first few years (0 – 3 years of age) are thought to be very important. Many young people that come to therapy have experienced difficult and unhappy early years, who didn’t feel safe or were hurt by people that were suppose to keep them safe, often they think that all relationships are like this and are not so positive about going into new situations. When young people experience traumatic events in their early years, such as the loss of someone important, violence at home, serious health problems and stress or abuse it is likely that this will affect the way they see themselves and other people.
Dramatherapist are trained in understanding the conscious and unconscious communication of young people. Through the relationship the young person is able to experience a secure attachment (often called a secure base) in which to explore and find an understanding of their experiences.
Dramatherapist are trained in child development and this is particularly important for those who have experienced trauma or who have not had a secure base when they were younger. Often these young people have missed or not completed a developmental stage which affects their behaviour and also their relationships. Dramatherapist through the use of play (sensory, projection and role) alongside the relationship help to support the child through these development stages.
We are also trained in attachment theory .
The therapy gives equal validity to body and mind within the dramatic context; stories, myths, play texts, puppetry, masks and improvisation are examples of the range of artistic interventions a Dramatherapist may employ. These will enable the client to explore difficult and painful life experiences through an indirect approach.
Clients who are referred to a Dramatherapist do not need to have previous experience or skill in acting, theatre or drama. Dramatherapists are trained to enable clients to find the most suitable medium for them to engage in group or individual therapy to address and resolve, or make troubling issues more bearable.
How is Dramatherapy related to Theatre?
The Dramatherapist can be seen as an empathic director who encourages clients to experience their physicality, to develop an ability to express the whole range of their emotions and to increase their insight and knowledge of themselves and others. The Dramatherapy session occurs in what the director, Peter Brook, calls the 'Empty Space'. In the internal life of the client there are memories and dreams, fears from the past and apprehensions about the future and these can be embodied and realised in this 'Empty Space'. Dramatherapists enable clients to release their own 'inspirational creativity' into roles they play, thus, both clients and Dramatherapist become what Augusto Boal calls 'spect-actors' - both actors and spectators. The Dramatherapist as empathic director helps the client or group member take responsibility for his/her own life through the use of aesthetic distance and theatrical metaphors.
Dramatherapy and Psychology
As different psychotherapeutic approaches have emerged from social, developmental and clinical psychology, there has been an increased awareness of the importance of the hypothetical or 'as if' reality upon which drama depends (Object Relations, Symbolic Interaction Theories and Personal Construct Psychology are all examples of this).
Dramatherapy practice has, in addition, been greatly influenced by theory and practice of Group Analytic Psychotherapy, Jungian Archetypal Psychotherapy, Gestalt Therapy and Systems Theory.
Dramatherapy and Play
Many writers have studied play and, in the main, they all acknowledge its dramatic or representational nature. Freud thought that the play of the child represents the 'first traces of imaginative activity', allowing the child to move between levels of fantasy and reality. Melanie Klein, the noted child psychoanalyst, highlights the 'as if' thinking necessary for spontaneous make-believe playing. Peter Slade, who worked with Drama in Education, considered that play marks the beginning of all dramatic activity, for the child distinguishes between 'personal play' (e.g. movement and role playing) and 'projected play' (which is more internally focused).
D.W. Winnicott's work on transitional objects is particularly important for Dramatherapists as they are interested primarily in dramatic or creative play and in understanding the significance of creativity to healthy development.
Dramatherapy and Anthropology
Anthropological awareness helps us understand rituals of healing that are culturally determined in form and content. Cultures which have retained more of their traditional forms of communal self-expression provide models for self-discovery by means of group experience. The discoveries that can be made through metaphor are explored, and personal insight can find expression through corporate awareness