Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
- It is often stated that Dramatherapy uses an 'indirect approach' or 'aesthetic distance' to explore difficult or painful life experiences. What does this mean?
- Do Dramatherapists always use an indirect approach?
- What is the relationship between Dramatherapy and Drama?
- How is Dramatherapy related to Theatre?
- Is Dramatherapy informed by other theories or disciplines?
- What is the difference between drama in health or education settings and Dramatherapy?
- What is the difference between Dramatherapy and Psychodrama?
- Can you recommend some books about Dramatherapy?
Some practical questions
- How can I check the credentials of someone who says they are a Dramatherapist?
- Can I shadow or gain work experience with a Dramatherapist?
- I would like to employ a Dramatherapist. Who should I contact?
It is often stated that Dramatherapy uses an 'indirect approach' or 'aesthetic distance' to explore difficult or painful life experiences. What does this mean?
When we watch a play or film, read a book or hear a story we often find that the predicaments or reactions of the fictional characters, who may be very distant from us in time, class ,culture or life style provoke a strong emotional reaction. Because emotions in real life can become overwhelming, we sometimes block them out or retreat from them. In a fictional reality, we can allow ourselves to feel things without having to deny their presence because we know fiction protects us but also allows us to be involved. The fiction can filter powerful feelings through to us but they do not engulf us, allowing us to acknowledge them and unlock some of the feelings that may be difficult to cope with. This is true of all of sorts of unwelcome thoughts and feelings, from envy to real psychological distress.
In our everyday speech we often use vivid sayings to describe how we feel. We might describe feelings of despair as like being in a dark tunnel without any light at the end, or say 'I can't see the wood for the trees' when we cannot focus on a particular issue. These are like a dramatic expression of how we feel and could be a starting point for Dramatherapy.
The Dramatherapist will work with the client to create their own unique imaginary story or with a particular text to create a special form of fictional reality, which is the client's own story retold in a different way and will thus assist the client to resolve or come to terms with areas of emotional or psychological discomfort or distress.
No, the process and content of the therapy will be based on the needs of the client and negotiated with the client both at the start of the therapy and during the therapy. However, the interventions will usually be illuminated within a dramatic framework.
Dramatherapy has very ancient, historical roots in the healing rituals and dramas of various societies. The connection between drama and the psychological healing of society, though not of the individual, was first formally acknowledged by Aristotle, who was the originator of the term 'catharsis'. Traditionally, the ability of drama to reorganise human awareness has been explained in philosophical and aesthetic terms. The relationship between theories of drama and the theory and practice of Dramatherapy is an ongoing one.
The Dramatherapist can be seen as an empathic director who encourages clients to experience their physicality, to develop an ability to express the whole range of their emotions and to increase their insight and knowledge of themselves and others. The Dramatherapy session occurs in what the director, Peter Brook, calls the 'Empty Space'. In the internal life of the client there are memories and dreams, fears from the past and apprehensions about the future and these can be embodied and realised in this 'Empty Space'. Dramatherapists enable clients to release their own 'inspirational creativity' into roles they play, thus, both clients and Dramatherapist become what Augusto Boal calls 'spect-actors' - both actors and spectators. The Dramatherapist as empathic director helps the client or group member take responsibility for his/her own life through the use of aesthetic distance and theatrical metaphors.
- Dramatherapy and Psychology
- As different psychotherapeutic approaches have emerged from social, developmental and clinical psychology, there has been an increased awareness of the importance of the hypothetical or 'as if' reality upon which drama depends (Object Relations, Symbolic Interaction Theories and Personal Construct Psychology are all examples of this).
- Dramatherapy practice has, in addition, been greatly influenced by theory and practice of Group Analytic Psychotherapy, Jungian Archetypal Psychotherapy, Gestalt Therapy and Systems Theory.
- Dramatherapy and Play
- Many writers have studied play and, in the main, they all acknowledge its dramatic or representational nature. Freud thought that the play of the child represents the 'first traces of imaginative activity', allowing the child to move between levels of fantasy and reality. Melanie Klein, the noted child psychoanalyst, highlights the 'as if' thinking necessary for spontaneous make-believe playing. Peter Slade, who worked with Drama in Education, considered that play marks the beginning of all dramatic activity, for the child distinguishes between 'personal play' (e.g. movement and role playing) and 'projected play' (which is more internally focused).
- D.W. Winnicott's work on transitional objects is particularly important for Dramatherapists as they are interested primarily in dramatic or creative play and in understanding the significance of creativity to healthy development.
- Dramatherapy and Anthropology
- Anthropological awareness helps us understand rituals of healing that are culturally determined in form and content. Cultures which have retained more of their traditional forms of communal self-expression provide models for self-discovery by means of group experience. The discoveries that can be made through metaphor are explored, and personal insight can find expression through corporate awareness.
Dramatherapy is a psychological therapy. This means that the process of the therapy and the relationship between the therapist and client is of prime importance. During their training, Dramatherapists gain an in-depth understanding of how to combine the art form with psychotherapy practice. For information about the Dramatherapists' proficiencies go to www.hcpc-uk.org.
Artists working in health care or educational settings may engage people in creative projects that will enhance well-being and increase self-esteem. Their input may be deemed to be therapeutic rather than providing the in-depth therapy offered by Arts Therapists.
For information about Arts and Health go to www.ahsw.org.uk.
The Website for the British Psychodrama Association is www.psychodrama.org.uk.
An Introduction to Dramatherapy, Dorothy Langley (Sage 2006)
Discovering the Self through Drama and Movement, The Sesame Approach, ed. Jenny Pearson (Jessica Kingsley 1996)
Drama as Therapy: Theory Practice and Research, Phil Jones (Routledge 2007)
Dramatic Approaches to Brief Therapy, Alida Gersie (Jessica Kingsley Press 1995)
Dramatherapy with Families, Groups and Individuals: Waiting in the Wings, Sue Jennings (Jessica Kingsley 1992)
Imagination, Identification and Catharsis in Theatre and Therapy, Roger Grainger and Mary Duggan (Jessica Kingsley 1997)
Introduction to Dramatherapy: Person and Threshold, Salvo Pitruzella - (Routledge 2004)
Introduction to Dramatherapy: Theatre and Healing - Ariadne's Ball of Thread, Sue Jennings (Jessica Kingsley 1998)
Practical Approaches to Dramatherapy: The Shield of Perseus, Madeline Andersen-Warren and Roger Grainger (Jessica Kingsley 2000)
The Play's the Thing: Exploring Text in Drama and Therapy, Marina Jenkyns (Routledge 1996)
Storymaking in Education and Therapy, Alida Gersie and Nancy King (Jessica Kingsley 1990)
The Arts Therapies
Arts Therapies: A research Map of the Field, Vicky Karkou and Patricia Sanderson (Elsiver, Churchill Livingstone 2006)
Process in the Arts Therapies, Edited Ann Cattanach (Jessica Kingsley 1999)
The Arts Therapies: A Revolution in Healthcare, Phil Jones (Routledge 2005)
How can I check the credentials of someone who says they are a Dramatherapist?
Dramatherapist is a protected title. It is against the law for a person not registered with The Health and Care Professions Council to call themselves a Dramatherapist. Use the HCPC online register for Arts Therapists to check that the person is listed www.hcpc-uk.org.
Due to the confidential nature of therapy this is not usually possible.
Please contact Heidi Jockelson at email@example.com.