Drama therapy is defined by the National Association for Drama Therapy as “the systematic and intentional use of drama/theater processes, products, and associations to achieve the therapeutic goals of symptom relief, emotional and physical integration and personal growth.” Drama therapy is an active approach that helps the client tell his or her story to solve a problem, achieve a catharsis, extend the depth and breadth of inner experience, understand the meaning of images, and strengthen the ability to observe personal roles while increasing flexibility between roles.
Drama therapy evolved from the experience and research of psychotherapists, teachers, and theater professionals who recognized that sometimes traditional verbal therapies were too rigid to permit clients to confront and work through individual disturbances. The balanced verbal and non-verbal components of drama therapy with its language of metaphor allow clients to work productively within a therapeutic alliance.
The National Association for Drama Therapy (NADT) was incorporated in 1979 to establish and uphold high standards of professional competence and ethics among drama therapists; to develop criteria for training and credentialing; to sponsor publications and conferences; and to promote the profession of drama therapy through information, education, and advocacy.
It is the responsibility of all Registered Drama Therapists to adhere to the profession’s ethical, moral, and legal standards as prescribed and accepted by the association and its membership. These standards cover principles of accountability, competence and confidentiality in treatment, supervision, and research.
Registered Drama Therapists are trained in theater arts, psychology, and psychotherapy. Training includes improvisation, puppetry, role-playing, pantomime, mask work, and theatrical production. Training in psychology and psychotherapy includes theories of personality, group process, and supervised clinical experience with a broad range of populations. The association supports the study of drama therapy through graduate programs in accredited colleges or universities and also through the NADT approved Alternative Training Program. Courses of study are evaluated by the association’s Education Committee and the NADT Board of Examiners.
NADT maintains a registry of drama therapists who have met the educational and clinical practice standards designated for professionals. The Registered Drama Therapist (RDT) title is awarded drama therapists who have a master’s degree which includes 500 hours of drama/theater experience, 300 hours of on-site internship in drama therapy with at least 30 hours of supervision by a RDT (or other registered creative arts therapist or credentialed master’s-level mental health professional), and 1000 paid hours of drama therapy experience.
Drama therapy benefits many client populations and is used in a variety of settings. These include psychiatric hospitals, mental health facilities, day treatment centers, nursing homes, centers for the physically/developmentally/learning disabled, substance abuse treatment, schools, businesses, and correctional facilities. Some populations served include children with learning and social difficulties, the developmentally delayed, psychiatric patients, the disabled, substance abusers, AIDS patients, and those with disorders associated with aging.
Goals are determined by the needs of each population. Some specific benefits likely to be achieved in drama therapy are reducing feelings of isolation, developing new coping skills and patterns, broadening the range of expression of feelings, experiencing positive interactions, and developing relationships.
Published research studies include assessment tools, statistically-based measurements, role play tests, and assessments using puppets with children. Current outcome studies are descriptive, using the case study method.
Drama therapy is a health and human service profession that dynamically and effectively addresses the needs of people from young children to the elderly. It can be used in the assessment and treatment of individuals, couples, families, and groups. Drama therapists may be the primary or adjunctive therapist within a treatment team, depending on the needs of the institution and the individual. Drama therapy is firmly rooted in a belief in the healing power of drama.
National Association for Drama Therapy
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