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Incorporating drama therapy?

2014

I attended the Child and Youth Care program in Edmonton at a University called Grant MacEwan.  In the third year of the program, students had an opportunity to travel to Ireland, attend classes at a University over there, and observe some of their child care practices.  One of the most significant learnings that they brought back was that the practitioners in Ireland incorporate drama into their praxis on a regular basis.  In Canada, from my experience, drama is a rarity and becomes even less commonplace in workplaces where youth's behaviours are more extreme. I'm very interested in diversifying the types of therapy used in my current workplace and am looking for help from you guys in doing so!
 
Alright, here we go with some questions!
 
-Is it true that drama is more widely incorporated into Child and Youth Care praxis in Ireland?
-How does this look?
-In more restrictive programs or mental health programs, does the carrying out of drama therapy look different than in other programs?  If so, how is it changed?
-What tangible benefits do the youth report/you observe in the youth that are the result of this drama program?
-Any suggestions for incorporating it into my workplace?
 
Thanks so much for your help!

Theodore Bouwsema
...

On a simple note we have been using drama to profile issues around Restorative principles and practices for the past 6 years. It takes the form more of an educational approach rather than 'therapy'. What we have been doing is putting on the play "Tough Case" for audience of up to 300 Grade 11 and 12's. in the audience are also 25 youth leaders from a local "gang" focussed initiative.
 
I see it as not only educational but both a community engagement and youth development tool..
 
So I would think that if you took it to the level of " therapy" you could find many benefits to its use. It is like any form of art based approach.
 
One form that has been used in two locations here in Ontario, Thunder Bay and Orilla is "Black Light theatre". It began with clients in the care of the CAS.
 
I think there are many varied uses and benefits.
 
Rick Kelly 

 
Hi Theodore,

I think it is important to make the distinction between drama therapy and the therapeutic use of drama. Irish social care students are not taught drama therapy and would/should NEVER claim to provide drama therapy to their clients. They do however (on occasion) use drama as a creative tool to facilitate communication between themselves and their clients and to enable deeper exploration of a particular issue.
 
Creative drama is also used in social care education to challenge students as part of a personal development process, even if they never use it post qualification, it has a value in that regard.
 
In answer to your questions...
 
Is it true that drama is more widely incorporated into Child and Youth Care praxis in Ireland?
No, it depends on the service and staff within the service.
 
How does this look?
I have worked in residential care for 20 years and I could count on one hand the amount of times that I have seen creative drama used as a structured intervention. You are more likely to see drama used in community based group work with children and young people to help them to express themselves and/or explore issues that are relevant to them.
 
In more restrictive programs or mental health programs, does the carrying out of drama therapy look different than in other programs?  If so, how is it changed?
 
See previous answers
 
What tangible benefits do the youth report/you observe in the youth that are the result of this drama program?
 
When I have seen creative drama used in community youth work I have seen significant positive changes in the participants ability to communicate on sensitive issues affecting their lives. I have also seen a corresponding increase in their general self confidence.
 
Any suggestions for incorporating it into my workplace
Talk to the staff. getting them to overcome their own anxieties/vulnerabilities and engage in creative drama will probably be your biggest challenge.
 
With very best wishes,
John Byrne.
Ireland 

 
Very interesting question Theo. Our childcare program provides many materials, space and opportunities for dramatic play. We incorporate "real" materials that would be used in children's homes, etc. It's interesting though that you raise the issue that often you do not see drama used as a therapeutic approach with youth. When I think about it and my own children, they were offered dramatic play opportunities in their early years in programs, then nothing really in elementary school but now my older son is in grade 8 this year and drama has been re-introduced again, and he loved it and I could see it being used as a therapeutic approach to troubled youth.
 
Danielle Jimeno
...

When I was studying early childhood education they talked about the benefits of drama and role playing for children,  and I am sure would be the same for youth, to help them work through their emotions or feelings about an issue and to make meaning of a situation. I can see how using drama with youth would be a therapeutic method for them to work through any issues they are struggling with and to help them express what they are feeling or thinking without having to sit face to face with someone and talk about it. It is an interesting tool that makes people feel less vulnerable and able to talk about an issue without directly taking about it. It can almost seem as though the puppet, or person they are role playing is the one with the issue talking about it instead of them self. 
 
Hailey Rooney
... 

Hey Theo,  

I really appreciated that you asked about incorporating drama into your practice because this is an area that I am interested in as well. I have used a form of Narrative Therapy in the past with children through storytelling. On some occasions I would extend on the storytelling and put it into a play form where children acted out the scenes. This allowed the children to externalize their characters and their problems. I would then discuss any changes that children would make to their script by doing a "rewrite". The children could chose to act out the new story if they wished. I found this very beneficial for the children and was a great way to incorporate body movements and helped connect 'feelings to the body' or soma-somatic symptoms.   

Another form of drama type activity that we would use with the children was something we called "Spontaneous Melodrama" which was used as a short warm-up type drama activity that helped break the ice. We would have a discussion around a certain problem (an example from the staff). The staff would read out a short story that had a problem or an issue in it, and the children would act out what the staff was reading, but they had to amplify their actions making the skit very melodramatic. This would usually bring a laugh to the children, and we would follow the skit with a discussion about when problems seem so big and nothing goes right.  

I have found using play or drama therapy a great way to help externalize problems and build confidence. 

Thanks, 

Janelle Northey
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