Drama Therapy: What Is It, Techniques, Benefits, And More

Last Update on December 29, 2023 : Published on December 30, 2023
What is Drama Therapy

Drama therapy is one of the unique, expressive, and creative forms of therapy as it helps in dealing with problems in different manners. Drama therapy is a form of expressive therapy wherein role-playing, learning different roles, and exercises help people understand and express their emotions. Drama therapy is a combination of psychotherapy and drama techniques that offers new ways to express feelings and thinking.

Techniques used in drama therapy revolve around improvisation, puppetry, role-playing, and acting out stories to help in active participation, self-confidence, and the build-up of new problem-solving skills. It can be more effective for solving emotional and behavioral problems.

Now that we have got a brief idea about drama therapy, let’s move on to the next section.

History of Drama Therapy

Drama therapy is not newly involved therapy but it was actually founded in the 18th century in Europe. The idea behind the development of drama therapy was to use the benefits of storytelling and dance movements. The form of recreation, movements, and expressions came into the eyes of mental health practitioners when the performers actually explored and presented their issues through expressive arts.

Drama therapy was later deeply researched and came into action in the 20th century. Drama therapy is known to be an experiential and active approach that can help people understand their issues such as relationship problems, goal-setting, mental illness, hidden traumas, and more.

Objectives of Drama Therapy

The major goal of drama therapy is to provide a secure and safe environment to the client wherein they can understand their needs, promote their own emotional voice, and engage in dramatic activities. Below listed are some of the goals of drama therapy:

  • Improve relationship and bonding skills
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Integrate overall wellbeing
  • Maintain quality of life
  • Promote personal growth and development
  • Promote positive behavior

Working in Drama Therapy

The best part about drama therapy is that you don’t need to go from arts or expressive studies to practice this therapy. Additionally, during the sessions, there’s only a registered drama therapist (RDT), so there’s no need for any further need of experience or dramatic training. Even in some sessions, clients don’t have to participate, instead, they are asked to observe and reflect. Drama therapist generally decides on the therapeutic goals and might take the use of different techniques during sessions, such as:

  • Drama exercises
  • Enactment
  • Theatre games
  • Storytelling
  • Improvisations
  • Puppetry
  • Roleplay

Generally, drama therapy sessions can be carried out in an individual and group setting. In the group setting, each client is asked to act out or role-play, so that they can develop an understanding of the issue and promote healing actively and creatively.

In individual settings, generally, the client is asked to role-play the scenes of opposite personalities so that they can understand the root cause of their issues, speak from other perspectives, develop empathy towards each other, and more.

Techniques Used in Drama Therapy

Drama therapy generally uses different activities and exercises involved in the theater to grow the inner expressions of clients. Below listed are the techniques that can be effectively used for accumulating drama therapy:

  1. Dramatic projection: This techniques allows the client to understand their inner feelings and work on their issues.
  2. Drama-therapeutic empathy and distancing: This technique helps in enhancing the abilities of clients so that they can mindfully engage in positive behaviors. Additionally, this also promotes inner conflict healing and personal problem-solving.  
  3. Impersonation and Personification: These two techniques help in expressing personal material with the help of role-playing.  
  4. Interactive audience and witnessing: This technique involves the client, group, or artists playing the role of witness or audience.  
  5. Life-drama connection: This process involves the focus on personal issues and problems with the help of dramatic projection.  
  6. Playing: Playing technique is usually practiced when the client needs to understand the process of problem-solving.  
  7. Transformation: This technique involves different aspects used in play or theater. This process is usually practiced through storytelling.  
  8. Therapeutic performance processes: This technique involves theatrical performances wherein the main work is performed on the personal issues of the client.

Benefits of Drama Therapy

Below listed are some of the common benefits of drama therapy:

  • Promotes healing in abuse survivors
  • Develops an understanding of at-risk youth
  • Develops empathy and patience in disabled group
  • Promotes healing and understanding in dysfunctional families
  • Provides nurture and care to homeless people
  • Promotes resilience and strength in older adults
  • Promotes healing and mental strength in people with AIDS
  • Develops emotional understanding and stability in people with behavioral health issues
  • Promotes healing and mental strength in people struggling with addiction
  • Promotes healing, nurture, empathy, and resilience in prison inmates

Below listed are some of the other benefits of drama therapy:

  • People struggling with mental health issues feel less isolated and empowered after sessions
  • People learn problem-solving skills effectively
  • People struggling with behavioral or expressive issues learn the art of expression
  • People learn to set therapeutic goals for themselves
  • People within a family setting learn to relate better with other family members
  • People understand their inner issues and self-judgment behavior more clearly
  • People gain a proper understanding of self-worth and self-esteem
  • People learn to develop better learning, coping, and healthy skills at work, home, or school
  • People develop an understanding of the art of expression and learn how to observe, react, and express appropriately
  • People start using the power of imagination, creativity, and mindfulness accurately
  • People learn how to address a problem effectively, quickly, and accurately
  • People get an escape from the pressure of life while attending the sessions
  • People learn to interact with others in a comfortable and safe environment
  • People learn to enjoy and savor each moment

Effectiveness of Drama Therapy

There’s limited research and studies based on the effectiveness of drama therapy. however, I could find a study published by Science Direct, “Dual Diagnosis Theater: A Pilot Drama Therapy Program For Individuals With Serious Mental Illness And Substance Use Disorder.”

The study followed a 9-week drama therapy program for people with serious mental health illnesses such as Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Schizophrenia. After the evaluation of the study, the researchers found a reduction in the symptoms. Additionally, the clients involved in this study enjoyed the sessions.

Why Should You Try Drama Therapy?

Drama therapy provides an escape from the real pressures of life. Every time you observe, reflect, and rehearse, you start changing your personality, you start adapting to better things, and most importantly you develop a new vision towards problems, emotions, difficulties, people, and toxicity in your life.

With the help of drama therapy, you learn to:

  • Express yourself
  • The story tells your side of emotions
  • Change the starting, ending, and details according to your preference
  • Look at problems from a different perspective

Drama therapy can be beneficial for family settings, groups, or individuals. Additionally, it can also be used in conjunction with psychodynamic therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Specifically, drama therapy can be really beneficial for those who find traditional therapy settings difficult.

Drama therapy can help in addressing various mental health conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance use
  • Trauma

Where Can I Find Drama Therapists?

Registered drama therapists (RDTs) generally work in multiple community settings and mental health settings such as:

  • Community centers
  • Group homes
  • Early intervention programs
  • Hospitals
  • Hospices
  • Multicultural centers
  • Inpatient and outpatient mental health settings
  • Private practice
  • Wellness centers
  • Shelters
  • Schools and after-school programs

A Word from the Author

If you’re interested in receiving drama therapy, you can ask your mental health provider or doctor to find you an RDT in your local area or community. To get started with a drama therapist, here’s what you need to do:

I hope this blog helps you understand drama therapy for mental health. Comment down and share your views on the same.

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Thanks for reading!

About The Author

Aayushi Kapoor
Aayushi Kapoor

Aayushi is a Content Creator at Calm Sage. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology and a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Her constant interest in the improvement of mental health, nutrition, and overall wellness embarked upon her career as a “full-time educational writer.” She likes to make an asynchronous connection with her readers. Her mantra for living life is "What you seek is seeking you".

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