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What is Drama Therapy?

Drama Therapy is the intentional use of artistic elements such as metaphor, role, character, embodiment, projection, and story to help people make meaningful changes for therapeutic purposes.

Drama Therapy allows different ways of knowing, expressing and discovering. It's a therapeutic practice that makes space for people beyond words and our everyday ways of communicating. For example, often the question 'how are you? invokes a reflex 'good/fine/well, you?'. Drama Therapy breaks out of this conditioning by inviting you to access the same material in a different way. A Creative Arts Therapist might ask you "what's a sound or a movement that describes how you're feeling today?" or "can you draw out what you're feeling?" or "what's a lyric or song that describes how you've been feeling lately?"

In many ways, the framework and elements of Drama Therapy already exist in our lives. For example, we can look at our lives as a story; our identity often consists of many different roles (depending on sociocultural factors), and metaphors are deeply engrained in how we think and express ourselves.

Drama Therapy uses techniques and tools to meet the client where they are at emotionally. For example, Drama Therapy makes use of embodiment in its techniques with the understanding that trauma and difficult experiences are stored somatically, rather than verbally. A client might be saying I'm fine' but their body might convey a different story. Drama Therapy makes space for the body to participate in the therapeutic process.

At the same time, Drama Therapy also comes with the understanding that embodiment might be too overwhelming for clients if done too soon. That's where metaphor and other artistic tools come in that can help emotionally distance the client from the material. For example, instead of exploring a memory that might be too difficult, the therapist and client might work with a movie, series, poem or book that a client feels particularly drawn to. Why does the client feel drawn to that piece of art? Does the client feel like they resonate with a particular character? What are the common themes between the work of art (movie, book, series, song etc) that are also themes in the client's life?

Drama Therapy incorporates a framework that asks a lot of important questions. Here are a few -- where are you in your story right now? What has happened so far? What are you moving towards? What character are you in your story? What roles do you play? Do you often have a mask on with other people? What sociocultural factors are influencing your story and the roles you play within your story? To what extent has your story really been yours? And what are some of the roles that can help you move forward? Sometimes people feel that they need to be creative or have a drama or theatre background to do find this kind of therapy useful. However, no experience is needed in terms of being 'creative', rather, it's about how these artistic methods will help access and explore the client's emotions, challenges and experiences, and create space for insight, perspective and discovery.


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