What is Drama Therapy?

If you would like to contribute your own definition of Drama Therapy, please email AiT.

~Drama Therapy is the intentional use of drama and/or theater processes to achieve therapeutic goals. Drama Therapy is active and experiential. This approach can provide the context for participants to tell their stories, set goals, and solve problems, express feelings, or achieve catharsis. Through drama, the depth and breadth of inner experience can be actively explored and interpersonal
relationship skills can be enhanced. Participants can expand their
repertoire of dramatic roles to find that their own life roles have been strengthened. Behavior change, skill-building, emotional and physical integration, and personal growth can be achieved through drama therapy in prevention, intervention, and treatment settings.

Drama Therapists practice in a wide range of settings including but not limited to mental health facilities, schools, hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, adult day care centers, correctional facilities, shelters, group homes, nursing homes, private practice settings, corporations and businesses, and theatres.

Participants benefitting from drama therapy span the life spectrum. Client populations may include persons recovering from addiction, dysfunctional families, trauma and abuse survivors, persons with developmental disabilities, people with eating disorders, people with HIV/AIDS, prison inmates, homeless persons, at-risk youth, older adults, and the general public.

The National Association for Drama Therapy (NADT) was incorporated in 1979 to establish and uphold rigorous standards of professional competence for drama therapists. The organization maintains requirements that must be met to qualify as a registered drama
therapist (RDT). NADT promotes drama therapy through information and advocacy.

As a member organization of the National Coalition of Arts Therapies
Association (NCATA), NADT is aligned with professionals in the fields of art, music, dance, and poetry therapies, as well as group psychotherapy and psychodrama.

A Registered Drama Therapist holds a master’s or doctoral degree in Drama Therapy from a program accredited by NADT or holds a master’s or doctoral degree in theatre or in a mental health profession with additional in-depth training in drama therapy through NADT’s alternative training program.

For more information about drama therapy or NADT, visit the NADT website at www.nadt.org.

Sally Bailey, MFA, MSW, RDT/BCT
Deborah Zuver, MA, RDT/BCT
Mecca Burns, MA, RDT/BCT

~A relatively young field, drama therapy is the systematic and intentional use of drama/theatre processes and products to achieve the therapeutic goals of symptom relief, emotional and physical integration, and personal growth. Drama therapy is an active, experiental approach that facilitates the client’s ability to tell his/her story, solve problems, set goals, express feelings appropriately, achieve catharsis, extend the depth and breadth of inner experience, improve interpersonal skills and relationships, and strengthen the ability to perform personal life roles while increasing flexibility between roles.

Drama therapists are trained in theatre arts, psychology, psychotherapy and drama therapy. Areas of study include improvisation, puppetry, role-playing, mask work, pantomine, theatrical production, pyschodrama, developmental pyschology, theories of personality, and group process. All students of drama therapy must complete supervised clinical internships with a broad range of populations.

The actual work of drama therapy exists in a variety of forms: from the clinical, institutional arena of psychiatric wards to very educational theatre like work in schools or community settings. This is usually determined by the therapist’s experience and the clients’ situations. Drama therapy differs from theater in education in it’s greater emphasis (usually) on the emotional and personally therapeutic side of the work. Drama therapy and Psychodrama share many techniques and theories, but have somewhat theoretical frameworks – psychodrama tending to a more psychoanalytic emphasis and drama therapy coming from a more creative drama realm. However, many are trained and work in both fields and there is a great deal of overlap in practices.

More information can be found at the website of the National Association for Drama Therapy at www.nadt.org or by subscribing to the drama therapy discussion list-server on the internet – instructions for signing up can be found at the NADT website.

Drama Therapy Reading Essentials:
~Emunah, R. (1994) Acting For Real: Drama Therapy Process, Technique, and Performance, New York, Brunner/Mazel, Inc.
~Jones, P. (1996) Drama as Therapy: Theatre as Living, New York, Routledge.
~Landy, R. (1993) Persona and Performance, New York, The Guilford Press.
~The Arts in Psychotherapy: An International Journal (5 issues/year) Pergammon Publ/Elsevier Science Customer Support PO Box 945, NY NY 10010 (212) 633-3730 or 1-888-4ES-INFO, Fax 212-633-3680. Email: usinfo-1@elsevier.com Attn: Barry. Cost: between $60-75 yearly depending on in or out of USA, etc. Inquire to Barry about student rates, they vary from year to year.

An International Community for Creative Arts Therapists