Origins of Dramatherapy

Drama comes from the Greek word ‘dran’ meaning to ‘do’ ‘perform’ ‘a great deed.’ The term therapy comes from the Greek word Therapeia meaning ‘to take care of’ related to therapon "servant, attendant." Therefore, dramatherapy, the art form, takes care of the client. The dramatherapist serves/attends the client by helping them become the author and director of their own life narrative.

Dramatherapy is an integrative therapy, a fusion of the two fields: theatre and psychology. The practical exercises and techniques emanate from the world of drama and theatre which are underpinned by psychological theory.

Play is the cornerstone of dramatic play. The ability to play is a natural part of childhood. A child journeys through psychological and physical developmental stages as they grow into adulthood all the way to old age. Within the early stages between 0 and adolescence they make sense of these developmental stages through play. Play is the first stage of learning. Early play includes using senses and movement. This form of play develops into symbolic play and later into role-play and make believe. Play is a meaning of learning in both childhood and adulthood.

Aristotle introduced the concept of catharsis in Greek plays. It is a release of emotion in response to art/drama that results in restoration and renewal. Freud referred to catharsis as the emotional release in the early days of psychoanalysis.

Stanislavski, the famous Russian theatre director believed that the actor should draw on emotional memories which stimulate the necessary emotion for the action portrayed on stage, thus experiencing a catharsis. By associating real life situations and feelings with those of the character, the actor was suitably equipped to reproduce these emotions on stage. The audience was also invited to share in a release of emotions, a catharsis, through identification with the pain or suffering of the character or situation witnessed on stage.

Sometimes we can be taken by surprise when we are moved by a play, film, book or other piece of art. It is because it resonates with a part of ourselves. This can be a very positive experience. It can be difficult if it triggers a painful part of our past or present. It can bring up unresolved feelings around trauma, loss, attachment to name but a few.

Dramatherapy aims to explore the client’s material, the root of their suffering, through the safe distance of play, drama, drawing, story, sculpting and other appropriate creative techniques.