What is Drama Therapy?
Updated: Jun 3
So you've decided you need support for whatever you're experiencing. It's been a tough year and a half. The conversation about mental health is louder than ever, and you've identified that therapy is the place for you.
Then you read about "embodied" methods of therapy, including drama therapy. You wonder to yourself, "what even is that?"
That's a great question.
Drama therapy, in my definition, is a practice that uses any and all forms across a dramatic medium to enact collective, individual, and interpersonal liberation. Drama therapy centers justice, and addresses harm done on a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, communal, and global scale with the intention of building resilience, reducing access barriers, and making change.
Essentially, drama therapy is a thing we do in order to heal ourselves and each other.
Drama therapy asks, "what is in the way?" "What do you/I/they/we need?" "How do we grow?" Where are we going?"
Drama therapy also prepares us to answer the question, "what will we do when we get there?"
What do we do?
Well, that's the great thing about the dramatic medium. We can do anything we want! Think about all of the skills required to put on a play, if you've seen one. There is a story, which requires some version of telling or creating it. Stories are created using voices, sound, music, visual art, movement, and more. You might use puppets, masks, dance, song, poetry, spoken word, or video to tell the story. Musicals have orchestras. Shakespeare uses soliloquy. Some plays invite audience participation, or improvisation. Some stories are told by many people together, some stories are told solo. Stories can be silent, stories can be loud, stories can be about everything and nothing all at the same time. Sets are built, costumes are sewn, fights are choreographed (planned out, essentially), lights are hung, and cues are called (telling everyone where to go and what to do). Plays happen in theaters, in communities, in flash mobs, and on the internet.
Drama is everything.
Sometimes drama therapy involves replaying past experiences and writing new endings. Sometimes drama therapy involves games and group play. Sometimes drama therapy means building something using objects you found, or writing and performing a piece, or making something up 'on the fly'.
All of those things, and more, are used for the purpose of liberating us.
Liberating from what?
There are so many things that plague us as a people, as individuals, as a collective, as a society, as a globe. Sometimes liberation might mean being freed from the thoughts of death inside your head that won't go away no matter how hard you try. Liberation could be from a familial pain passed down over generations, or behaviors that no longer serve. You might wish to be liberated from social circumstances that hold you back or push you down. Maybe it's liberation from white supremacy. (Yeah, we're that kind of practice.)
No matter what harms you've experienced or who/what caused them, drama therapy has answers.
Is it silly?
It can be silly. We can be silly. Humans were designed to play, as all mammals are. We at Therapy, Altered think that drama therapy should involve some silliness. Increasing joy is just as important as reducing pain.
It doesn't have to be, though. It can be serious. It can be sweet. It can be terrifying. It can hold all of the emotions you have, because to make theatre and art is to be human. This is a method that truly holds it all.
Is it just for children?
No way. Drama therapy is for everyone.
At Therapy, Altered, we value embodied processes (aka things that happen in bodies), because we're not just a bunch of floating heads. Humans have bodies. Not only do we have them, we are them. Bodies hold feelings too. No matter what happens in the world, those things happen to our bodies, not just our minds. We think bodies are the key.
If you're interested in learning more, come try it out. We promise- it helps.