Drama Therapy

David La Vay

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What is Dramatherapy?
The British Association of Dramatherapists has adopted the following definition:
" Dramatherapy has as its main focus the intentional use of healing aspects of drama and theatre as the therapeutic process. It is a method of working and playing that uses action methods to facilitate creativity, imagination, learning, insight and growth."
Theoretical Basis for the practice of Dramatherapy

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 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.
In the internal life of this 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 "spectactors" - both actors and spectators. Thus 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.

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). The best known example of dramatic psychotherapy is of course Psychodrama, developed by Jacob Moreno.

In Dramatherapy a range of insights and techniques derived form Psychodrama can be employed, but Dramatherapy is more genuinely dramatic due to the use of metaphor and fictional plots instead of straightforward autobiography. The distinctive characteristic of Dramatherapy is the obliqueness of its approach. The creation of fictitious reality enhances the client's involvement and identification with the drama.


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