Dramatherapy – The Method
Dramatherapy is a scientifically documented method of psychotherapy and is one of the four recognized and accredited methods of arts psychotherapy (the other three are Music Therapy, Art Therapy and Dance & Movement Therapy). In Britain, where Anna trained and worked, Drama therapists are required to complete Higher Education Postgraduate Studies in order to be able to work in both private and public sectors and to be recognised by the Health Professions Council (HPC), an official public body of health professionals. Anyone failing to meet these requirements cannot make use of the title “Drama therapist”.
The Origins of Dramatherapy
Dramatherapy consists of the words “Drama” (action, act) and “therapy” (treatment) and is based on the notion that theater (deriving from the Ancient Greek verb θεώμαι = see, parse with the mind) has a therapeutic effect on humans, as described by the Aristotelian term “Catharsis” (emotional release). The word “Drama” as used in Dramatherapy refers to the concept of Action on stage or in a situation. In this sense Dramatherapy is the ideal psychotherapeutic method for those who feel “stuck” in a situation and wish to take action and move on from where they are psychologically.
How does Dramatherapy work?
Dramatherapy makes use of non-verbal communication which is achieved through artistic expression. The therapeutic approach through art acknowledges the content of artistic processes as mirrors of our personalities. This is a method that is accessible to everyone. In addition, it requires no artistic or acting ability. On the contrary, it encourages participation and expression in the simplest possible way: expressing oneself using the means provided, in a child-like manner. It is a method that encourages creative expression when it is difficult to express feelings with words, and is especially useful to people who rely more on words and thoughts, and thus may lose contact with their feelings. During the dramatherapeutic method the patient is not required to speak about what has hurt him/her. The symbols arising from the creative expression of the patient (for example a painting) are carriers of thoughts and emotions and, as such, valuable tools within our creative actions. We work on trauma through treatment with the use of symbols and expressive processes thus making treatment as quick and pleasant as possible.
There is a wide repertoire of artistic forms of expression and our tools in this process are many and diverse. Some of these creative tools are:
- The human voice and musical sounds
- Physical expression
- Small objects such as dolls, miniature animals, pebbles and shells, illustrated cards
- Fairy tales and storytelling
- Visual art such as: painting, clay, playdough, collage
- Use of old photos or photographic activity
- Playing with puppets, dolls, and other objects
- Costumes, theatrical exercises and role-playing situations.
The therapeutic approach of ACT – Art Can Talk Dramatherapy Centre
Dramatherapy is defined by the British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth) as: “a form of psychological therapy in which all of the performance arts are utilised within the therapeutic relationship“(BADth, 2014).
Anna’s approach to dramatherapy is based on the EPR model developed by Sue Jennings, a pioneer of the method in Britain and in Europe. It is based on a developmental approach to the therapeutic process through art and play consisting of 3 stages:
- Embodiment – In the first year of our lives, we experience the environment through our senses so that we start to play and explore the world.
- Projection – We gradually start to form relationships with people in our environment and to acknowledge the personal value of objects that lie outside the narrow limits of ourselves.
- Role (role playing)- Then we gain the ability to enter and change a variety of roles as the case may be.
According to Jennings, all humans go back and re-examine these stages thoughout their lifetime. In Dramatherapy, we review these stages using embodiment and projection exercises and role playing.
The Session – Art and Play
What differentiates the dramatheurapeutic method from other methods of psychotherapy is that the session is not limited to speech and dialogue. The patient is encouraged to take action, to gain a more active role and to experiment in different ways of expression and existence in space. In many cases, we may need to leave the chair, to use the room and everything in it, including the therapist, to create an artistic action through a playful atmosphere. This form of activity enables the patients to discover aspects of themselves through a process of experimentation and self-observation, and gives them an ability to choose the way of being that is in line with their true self, and makes them happy.
During a session of Dramatherapy, the time is split between creative actions and playing on one hand, and a discussion of these actions on the other. How the time will be allocated depends upon the needs of the patients. The role of the therapist is to create conditions that promote an atmosphere of confidence and acceptance of the patients without any criticism or judgement. In addition, the therapist helps the patients to associate their artistic creation with their sense of themselves. Therefore, the transitional space of dramatherapy serves as a rehearsal space for the life of patients, allowing them to choose the roles and behaviours that better suit their personality and life.
This is a method that applies and works either independently or in combination with other therapeutic methods. The sessions are held at regular weekly intervals within the context of a Psychoanalytic Dramatherapeutic Approach.