It is always challenging to answer the question, “What is drama therapy?”
This is because drama therapy can look so many different ways!
Any aspect of theatre or drama may be incorporated into a drama therapy practice.
Including (but not limited to!): playwrighting; devised performance; performing existing skits, scripts, and plays; puppetry; mask work; improvisation and role play; creative drama games; voice and movement; musical theatre; set construction; costuming; lighting/sound/props; etc.
Not all drama therapists put on a full stage play as a part of their work. But some do!
Drama Therapy as Integrative
Drama and theatre artists require knowledge and experience in music, dance, and visual art. This makes drama therapy the most integrative of the creative arts therapies (art, music, dance/movement, drama, and poetry therapy).
My undergraduate training in Theatre was holistic. I have experience not only as an actor, director, and dramaturge, but in costuming/makeup, set design/construction, stage management, lighting and sound design, and properties (prop) design and construction.
I also have significant experience with musical theatre.
My father was a band director and music teacher. As a result, I can read music, and I learned to play the piano starting at age 5. I have been in both band and choir throughout middle and high school. I took several years of voice lessons in college.
I also took dance lessons from a young age (ballet, tap, and jazz). As well as several musical theatre dance classes in my undergraduate studies. I have also taken modern dance and flamenco classes as an adult.
On top of that, I have 15+ years worth of experience with yoga.
My approach to drama therapy is holistic and very client-centered.
I am willing to experiment with just about anything that might be of interest to you.
I regularly incorporate elements of movement, music, and visual art into sessions.
Here are some examples of what that might look like:
- Creating a Self-Portrait
- Drawing roles or parts of Self (e.g. Inner Child, Inner Critic, Anxiety, Depression, ADHD, Anger, Grief, Anxiety, Wise Self, Future Self, Spirituality, etc.)
- Creating a Mask (what I show to the world vs. what I keep hidden)
- Creating a visual representation of a metaphor (e.g. “It feels like my anxiety is an octopus with its tentacles wrapped around my chest” or “There is an anchor weighing down my heart”)
- Creating a backdrop for a role play or scene
- Exploring the emotions and/or sensations of using different mediums (chalk, acrylic, water color, etc.)
Rhythm and Music
- Bringing your favorite song or artist to play in session
- Using humming/singing and/or vocalization of sounds instead of words
- Using your body to create rhythm/drumming
- Writing song lyrics
Dance/Movement or Yoga
- Guided Meditation
- Body Scans or Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Asking you to notice where you feel emotions in your body
- Exploring movement/gesture to express emotion instead of words
- Creating a sculpture with your body
- Improvising a dance to a song
- Stretching to “warm up” your body or refocus between activities
Writing and Poetry
- Stream of consciousness writing
- Writing a short story
- Writing a poem
- Reading a poem aloud
- Blackout poetry
- Collage poetry
And of course, Drama!
- Role play
- Improv Games
- Creative Drama Games
- Embodied Sculptures or Tableau
- Using facial expression or gestures
- Reading a monologue or scene from a play
- Writing and performing a monologue
- Using props or scarves
This is of course not a comprehensive list!
My Approach to Drama Therapy
I have found that drama therapy really helps marginalized individuals who are coping with trauma and minority stress. Artistic expression can facilitate coping with feelings of anxiety and depression. As well as being able to integrate and relate to past experiences in a different way.
So many members of the LGBTQ community cope through poetry, storytelling, drag performances, creating costumes and fashion accessories, and so many other creative things! We can bring all of that – and MORE – into the drama therapy session.
I hope this gives you a better idea of how versatile drama therapy can be. And how drama is able to use elements from a variety of arts modalities.
If this sounds exciting to you, and you want to learn more, contact me! You can schedule a free consultation.
Photo by Marcin Krawczyk via Flickr Creative Commons