What is therapy, exactly?
Therapy is when someone lies down on a couch and talks to clinician. Or therapy is a group of people gathered in a circle of chairs and working through their problems. Serious, often cathartic business, in other words.
Therapy certainly doesn’t look like a group of people acting out scenes. Or does it?
It’s been known for some time that art and music therapy can help patients better express themselves and their conflicts through means other than speech. It’s a similar role to that of drama therapy, which is a form of group psychotherapy where patients join together to act out the situations that may be driving their problems.
Drama therapy’s origins
Drama therapy – also called “psychodrama” – may sound like a new development, but the practice has roots going back to the 1920s. Romanian-born doctor Jacob Levy Moreno, M.D., was inspired by experimental and improvisational theater while living in Vienna, Austria, and began to form the technique he later called “psychodrama.”
According to the British Psychodrama Association, drama therapy consists of “guided dramatic action” in order to explore an individual’s problems or issues. A form of group therapy, drama theory re-enacts life events drawn from its participants’ lives. Participants are able to gain new understandings and new skills in order to deal with those same life events. To do this, drama therapy uses spontaneous role-playing and dramatization.
Here’s a simple example. A patient suffering from anxiety comes to the group session due to the level of stress in their career. He describes a meeting that was presided over by a supervisor who was angry and dismissive, which in turn reminded him of a mean teacher he had in his youth. This combination caused the patient a severe amount of anxiety.
If the patient is willing to work with the group about these issues, the group next re-enacts the meeting according to the patient’s description. Other group members play the patient’s coworkers and supervisor. Doing this in a safe, regulated environment can allow the patient to express and confront the issues the incident may have caused.
Drama therapy in practice
Drama therapy has been used to treat a wide variety of mental disorders and psychological trauma, particularly with children. The North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) outlines several ways drama therapy can help children and adolescents, chiefly because drama therapy allows children to express control over their anxieties.
It’s also been used as therapy for autistic children. Researchers at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom placed 22 autistic children of ages 7 to 12 in weekly drama therapy sessions. A few weeks later, the children were examined for autistic behaviors, IQ and their ability to recognize emotions. All of the children showed some improvement, with the largest change being in the number of facial expressions the children could recognize.
Additional studies have shown drama therapy may even have potential benefits in treating eating disorders.
Psychotherapy and alternative therapies like art, music and drama therapy, can help anyone dealing with mental disorders or substance abuse. Sovereign Health’s Rancho San Diego facility offers effective treatment for adolescents aged 12 to 17 in a residential setting. Our compassionate experts are trained to help their patients grow and reach their full potential. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at email@example.com.